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UF Women’s Basketball: Smith’s Career Night Pushes Gators to Win Over FAU

Kiki Smith (middle left) had a career-night with 27 points and 11 rebounds.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SAM STOLTE

Women’s basketball defeats visiting Owls 88-76 late Monday night behind monster game from Kiki Smith

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Playing for the fourth time in seven days, the University of Florida women’s basketball team (4-1) looked as fresh as ever as it rolled to an 88-76 victory over the visiting Florida Atlantic Owls late Monday evening inside of Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
 
In what was a rugged and physical battle between the two Sunshine State squads, the Gators reigned supreme, thanks to opportunistic offense and tough defense. Florida, scoring over 80 points for the third time already this season, received contributions from up and down its lineup, led by Kiki Smith and Lavender Briggs, who both added double-doubles. Smith, who has been terrific to start her senior season, tallied a career-best 27 points to go with 11 rebounds and two steals.
 
The Gators, 4-0 at home for the first time in four years, have been paced by the efforts of the senior point guard Smith during their hot start. The do-it-all floor general has scored 14 or more points in all five games this season while registering a pair of double-doubles, with 20 or more points in both. 
 
Briggs, tallying her ninth career double-double, eclipsed the 500 career point mark in the contest becoming the fastest player to score 500 points in a Florida uniform since Sha Brooks eclipsed the 500-point mark in 34 games in the 2006-07 campaign. The methodical scoring machine that is Lavender Briggs continued to hum Monday night as she recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
 
Also finishing in double figures was redshirt-sophomore guard Yasmeen Chang, who was playing in just her second game with the Gators after being granted an NCAA waiver late last week and added a career-best 11 points and a palpable buzz off the bench.
 
Nine players scored in the game, and five players tallied eight or more points, including freshman forward Jordyn Merritt , who added eight points and five rebounds off the bench.
 
The game featured just four lead changes and two ties, and at one point Florida led by as many as 18, but the scrappy Owls wouldn’t go down without a fight. Leading the charge for FAU was transfer Iggy Allen, who added 25 points and nine rebounds in 34 minutes of play.

Florida got out to an 8-5 lead after corner three-pointers from Smith and Nina Rickards, who tallied eight points in the game. FAU responded with a 6-0 scoring run, and the Gators endured a drought, allowing the Owls to snag an 11-8 lead. UF punched back with a string of three consecutive field goals and compiled a 7-0 run to help it build a 19-15 edge at quarter’s end. A familiar theme in the early going for the Gators has been Smith coming out red hot; she scored eight points in the first frame. Both teams struggled to shoot it from the floor overall; the Gators connected on just eight of their first 26 attempts.
 
Following a basket from FAU to open the second quarter, the Gators surged back with another 7-0 run, which prompted a timeout from the Owls. The Gators kept building on their lead with stingy defense and assertive offense. After back-to-back baskets from Chang and a tough finish at the rim from Smith, Florida compiled a 16-point lead.
 
After a slow start in the first, Florida got things rolling in the second, making 11 of its 21 shots. Smith continued her strong start, dropping another nine points in the second, bringing her halftime total to a whopping 17. Chang added six in the quarter, and UF tallied six points off FAU turnovers. The Gators held FAU to just 7 points in the first six minutes of the second quarter, and their bench accounted for 18 first half points.
 
The Gators led 46-31 at the intermission, notching 40 or more points in a first half for the third time this season.
 
The Gators’ offense stalled again early in third quarter, allowing the Owls to slice the lead down to 52-44 at the midway mark of the period. The Owls made six of eight shots in a stretch to push the Gators, but Florida built its lead back up to double-digits, thanks to a flurry of offense from sophomore forward Faith Dut. FAU managed to trim UF’s advantage back to seven at 56-49 with 3:36 to play in the period after a jumper from Allen, but that’s the closest it would get as Florida saved its best for last in the third stanza. UF employed an 8-0 run over the final minute to grab a 67-51 lead heading into the fourth.  
 
The Owls wouldn’t get within 12 points in the fourth quarter despite outscoring the Gators 25-21. Smith added seven in the final 10-minute segment, capping off what was an incredible night of hoops for the senior from Maryland.
 
In the physical battle between the two teams, Florida held the upper hand in rebounds at 45-43 and in points in the paint, at 40-34.
 
Dut finished the game with six points and five rebounds in 21 minutes.
 
The Gators return to the hardwood Wednesday when they travel to UNC Asheville for a matchup with the Bulldogs. After three straight home games, Florida faces its second road test of the young season.
 
UP NEXT
Wednesday, Dec. 9 | 4 p.m.
Florida (4-1) at UNC Asheville (1-2)
Kimmel Arena
ESPN+ 

QUOTABLES

Head Coach Cam Newbauer
On overall thoughts on playing a very physical FAU team…….
“We knew it was going to be a challenge with their style of play. How fast they get up and down the court, how relentless they play, the way they attack the offensive glass. Defensively, they also do some things to disrupt you. As you could see today, we punched them pretty hard a couple of times and they kept fighting back. They did a really good job making counter-plays. We had a lot of people step up and make some really good plays today. Jordyn Merritt had a really good first half – eight points, five offensive rebounds. Yasmeen Chang came in and was really explosive for us – 11 points in 10 minutes. Kiki – you say enough about Kiki – she had an incredible night, 27 points, 11 rebounds, was fouled six times, and had two steals. Lav has just continued to mature. She didn’t have a great night shooting tonight, but she kept making plays. She had a double-double to go along with three assists and two steals. Faith had some good moments for us, and Floor had that and-1. The emotion that Floor showed after that and-1 was great. So many people made plays when we needed it. All hands on deck tonight because we knew with their style of play that we were going to have to sub quite often. Happy with the win overall, it helped us get better tonight for sure.”
 
On what Yasmeen brings…..
“If you watched tonight you say that she is aggressive and attacks the rim. She can shoot the three as well – she spends a lot of time in the gym working on her shot. Defensively, she can disrupt, and now it is just a matter of her being more comfortable and confident when she gets in there. Sometimes she just has some nerves because she is just so excited to get out there and play as a Gator.”
 
On Iggy Allen’s performance for FAU….
“Iggy Allen, the Miami transfer, she’s averaging 20-something right now. She is a big-time player, playing with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. She had 24 points, you have to know where she is at at all times. She really does a good job passing energy and enthusiasm on to her teammates. She has really strong leadership, and we knew she was going to be trouble for us. I wouldn’t say it was a matter of us being sluggish, but with that team and the way they play, you just can’t take a break. You have to be communicating constantly. This was a challenge that I’m glad we had to face tonight in order to figure out the resolve we play with.”
 
Senior guard Kiki Smith  
On her aggressiveness at the start of games…
“Yeah, definitely. I mean, honestly, I just go out there and take what the defense gives me. You know, I try not to be timid out there, I always keep my head up and like I said, I just took what the defense gave me. Our team does a great job moving without the ball and it opens up lanes. Just having the mindset to be aggressive from the start.”
 
On her confidence shooting the three ball…
“Yeah, just being in the gym. Occasionally, getting extra shots up. I know that when teams scout me, I’m pretty sure they’re going to say I like to attack. So, just having the versatility to go out there and if they take one thing away from me, to know how to do something else basically.”
 
Redshirt-sophomore Yasmeen Chang  
On FAU’s toughness and physicality…
“Yeah, they were pretty tough. Sprinting up and down in transition, but I feel like we matched their momentum and kept on pushing with the same energy.”
 
On her energy level after a tough opening schedule…
“I’m not tired at all. I’m just happy to be with my team, so I’m excited.”
 
NOTABLES

  • With 14 points Monday night, Lavender Briggs eclipsed the 500-point plateau for her young career, becoming the fastest UF player to 500 career points since Sha Brooks eclipsed the 500-point mark in 34 games in the 2006-07 campaign. Brooks finished her Gator career with 1,820 points, the fifth-most all time.
  • The Gators have started 4-0 at home for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign.
  • Kiki Smith scored a career-high 27 points and added her fourth career double-double.
  • Yasmeen Chang, in just her second game with the Gators, added 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting.
  • Florida played its fourth game in seven days.
  • Florida improves to 7-1 all time against FAU and 5-0 at home in the series.
  • Florida scored 40+ points in the first half for the third time this season. A season ago it did this only seven times.
  • The Gators scored 80 or more points for the third time this season.
  • Florida put together another big scoring quarter Monday night as it tallied 27 in the second stanza. Its 28 second quarter points against Charleston Southern were its most in a period since scoring 28 in the first quarter against Samford on Nov. 16 of last season and UF also scored 27 in the fourth quarter versus Grambling and 26 against Cincinnati.