fbpx

UF Women’s Basketball: Smith’s 27 Not Enough as Florida Falls 77-70 to Alabama

Senior guard Kiki Smith scored 20 or more points for the sixth time in her last games, leading the Gators in a hard-fought battle with Alabama.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SAM STOLTE

Women’s basketball drops tight decision to visiting Crimson Tide Thursday night

Despite a career night from senior guard Kiki Smith, the University of Florida women’s basketball team fell 77-70 to visiting Alabama Thursday evening at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.   
 
Scoring 20 or more points for the eighth time this season, the Maryland native, Smith, tied her career high with 27 points and kept the Gators within striking distance all game with a tremendous effort. The left-handed guard poured in a career-high four 3-pointers and knocked down 7-of-8 from the free throw line, but it wasn’t enough as the Crimson Tide picked up the win to improve to 14-6 on the season.
 
Florida trailed by as many as 17 in the third, but the Gators charged back to draw within six points twice in the fourth quarter. A pull-up jumper from Smith made the score 72-66 with 1:17 on the clock, but the Gators could not break through for the necessary breaks and bounces to take out the Tide at home.
 
UF made eight 3-pointers, shot an impressive 14-of-17 from the line, and dominated the rebounding battle, 43-29. Sophomore Faith Dut impressed with 11 points off the bench, while one of the league’s top rebounding guards, Nina Rickards, tallied nine points and nine rebounds.

Freshman Brynn Farrell, scoring six or more points for the fourth straight game, posted a career-best seven points and hit a pair of timely treys in the matchup.
 
With the exception of a rough stretch late in the third quarter when Alabama built its lead up to high double figures, the teams exchanged blows in a tight contest. Despite struggling to score the ball at points in the game, Florida’s effort never stopped as it recorded 20 second-chance points, its third-most in a game this year.
 
Alabama’s star forward Jasmine Walker, who scored 41 points in UA’s last game, tallied 22, while fellow senior Jordan Lewis notched 20 points and five assists.
 
Smith, who scored in double figures for the 19th time through 20 games, helped will the Gators back into the conversation with nine points in the final period, a quarter that the Gators won 21-17.
 
Playing its penultimate home game, Florida put up 20 bench points, its highest tally in conference action.
 
Florida made its first two shots of the game but followed that up with seven misses in a row, as Alabama jumped out to a 12-4 advantage following its 7-0 run. The Crimson Tide came out shooting the ball with precision from three-point land, making five of their first six three-pointers, and they led 18-11 at the game’s first media timeout. The Gators quickly sliced into the lead, though, with a 6-0 spurt and trailed 20-17 at the period’s end. Kristina Moore, coming off the bench for the second straight game, tallied seven points in the opening quarter.
 
Alabama scored seven in a row midway through the second period to grab a 31-22 lead at the media stoppage. Alabama knocked down five of its first eight tries in the second, with Walker recording seven points in the first five minutes of play. Florida shot back with a 7-0 scoring run to trim the gap to one at 31-30 following a conventional three-point play conversion from Rickards. Just when Florida looked to be in a prime position to overtake the Tide, Alabama closed on a 6-0 run and carried a 37-30 advantage into the intermission. Hannah Barber dropped in a tear-drop floater at the first half buzzer. Walker led all scorers with 12, while Smith paced the Gators with 11.
 
UA shot 48 percent in the first half compared to UF’s 33 percent clip, but the Gators held a 20-16 edge on the glass.
 
The Crimson Tide scored six of the first eight points in the third quarter to build an 11-point advantage at 43-32, which spurred a Florida timeout with 7:36 on the clock. At the media timeout, UA led 49-39.
 
Alabama then scored on consecutive trips to extend its lead to 14 with under four minutes to play and after its run grew to 9-0, it suddenly led 56-39. With its back against the wall, UF responded with a 9-0 scoring spree of its own coming on a barrage of three-pointers; one by way of Farrell and two from Smith. After UF clawed back within seven, Alabama rattled off five straight points and took a 60-49 lead into the fourth. 
 
After Alabama led by 12 early on in the fourth, Florida shrunk the deficit back down to three possessions at 66-59 after Danielle Rainey connected for a three-point shot in transition.
 
Florida trailed just 68-62 after a Rickards’ offensive putback with three minutes remaining, but Alabama’s Ariyah Copeland scored four straight points to make it a double-figure deficit for the Gators. The Gators limited the Crimson Tide to a 1-of-8 shooting stretch and, following a jumper from Smith, her 26th and 27th points of the ball game, Florida faced just a six point deficit with 1:17 remaining. With the ball and facing just a two possession deficit, Rickards drove through the lane and tossed up an acrobatic floater, but her shot would not drop. UA grabbed the rebound, called a time out, and after running down the shot clock, Lewis was fouled and made both free throws to quell the Gators’ late comeback bid.
 
NEXT UP: Florida plays its final game of what has been a busy week of hoops on Sunday, Feb. 21 when it hits the road for a matchup at Missouri. The game is set to tip at 2 p.m. ET and will air nationally on SEC Network.
 
QUOTABLES

Head Coach Cam Newbauer

On the team’s performance…
“Phenomenal game from Kiki today, just couldn’t get shots to fall down with other players. You know, that’s their defense, they do a really good job of taking away what you want to do. They prepare very well, I think they did that today. You know, just had some players have some good looks that didn’t go down. But, we still had opportunities. Kept clawing, cutting right into that lead and had the ball a couple times down 3 or 5. You know, hats off to their big 3. You know, 16, 20, and 22. Made plays when they had to, that’s why that team has won 6 or 7 conference games. Jasmine Walker, right there with Rhyne Howard for player of the year in the conference. She just does so much for her team. Senior point guard they got, Jordan Lewis, just really good player and then Ariyah Copeland inside gave us problems tonight. But, I like what we did. I liked Faith Dut’s effort tonight, you know, Brynn Farrell gave us some good minutes. Everybody gave us good minutes, shots just didn’t go down and a couple untimely turnovers here or there. But overall, really proud of our kids and the fight that we played with.”
 
On Kiki’s career high in points…
“And that’s just what Kiki Smith has done her the last three years. And Lav (Briggs) and Nina (Rickards) and these young players, everyone is getting in the gym. Stepping up, trying to make plays, and trying to get better. We keep talking about being the best version of ourselves each possession and that’s what they are doing, they’re striving to do that. And you see it happening. You see us shrugging off mistakes and playing the next play, having a better response, better reaction. And that’s growth, that’s maturity, that’s competitive maturity and we’re doing that. And we are still a very young bunch and just proud of the effort and I just wish we could get one for them because they deserve it because they are doing everything we ask and then some and their effort is just great. They just care so much for each other and this program and just so proud of how they show up every day and give us everything they have.”
 
On the upcoming game against Missouri…
“Well, you got to be focused. Anytime you’re on the road, they are going to have a good crowd. So you have to be focused, locked in to make sure we keep our assignments. Tonight, a couple times, we missed some assignments at the wrong time, where their big three got some easy opportunities and that’s part of the game. You have to lock in and limit those opportunities. So, from a defensive standpoint we got to be locked into what our assignments and our scheme are going to be. And from an offensive standpoint, you have to stay confident and shoot the opportunities you have. You can’t second guess and you can’t be looking at the defense. You have to be trusting your training and keeping your eyes on the rim and taking that shot when the opportunity presents itself.”
 
Senior Kiki Smith

On her big performance..
“Honestly, I didn’t even realize it. Every time I try to shoot the ball it’s just my mentality to score. Whether it goes in or goes out, keep shooting. That’s what Coach Cam tells me, tells everybody — just keep shooting. Just having the mindset to be aggressive and nail the open shots is what my mindset has been really.”
 
Sophomore Faith Dut

On the team’s performance….
“We just have a lot of people on our team that can make plays and we practice a lot of things in practice that translate into the game. And so people come out and hit shots when they need to hit shots. We have a lot of people who are consistent with that.”
 
On PG Kiara Smith’s performance…
“It’s Kiki Smith. I mean, it’s not surprising. Kiki always tries to carry the team when we need it, when we’re down — she’s our rock. She’s doing what she does and everybody tries to come along with her. She does a very good job of pulling everybody along with her. Kiki always shows up.”
 
NOTABLES

  • Kiki Smith matched her career high with 27 points and set a new career high with four made three-pointers.
  • Smith scored in double figures for the ninth time this season and posted 20 or more points for the eighth time.
  • Faith Dut scored in double figures (11) for the fourth time in her career and first time since Jan. 7 vs. Mississippi State.
  • 10 straight meetings between the Gators and Crimson Tide have been decided by 10 or fewer points.
  • Thursday marked the sixth loss for the Gators by fewer than 10 points.
  • Florida featured the same starting lineup for the second game in a row, a starting five that included two freshmen, a sophomore, and two redshirt-seniors.
  • Florida made eight or more three-pointers for the sixth time this season and its fourth time in its last six games.
  • The Gators have out-rebounded their opponent in five of their last seven games.
  • UF falls to 7-5 at home and has just one home game left, Feb. 28 vs. UGA.
  • Alabama averaged 8.3 three-pointers per game and shot 9-of-27 from distance for the game.
  • Floor Toonders made her fourth-straight start, while Danielle Rainey made her second in a row.
  • Underclassmen accounted for 60 percent of UF’s minutes played. 
>