Challenge Lies Ahead as Gators Travel to Kansas Sunday

The University of Florida women’s basketball team (6-2) returns to the hardwood Sunday, Nov. 8 when it travels to Kansas (7-0) for a Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup at historic Allen Fieldhouse. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. ET as the Gators and Jayhawks meet for just the second time.

Date:Sunday, Dec. 8
Time:3 p.m. ET
Matchup:Florida (6-2) at Kansas (7-0) | Big 12/SEC Challenge
Location:Lawrence, Kansas 
Live Stream:Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with Josh Klingler, Brenda Vanlengen and Jill Dorsey Hall
Live Stats: Here
Radio:WRUF ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM  with Kyle Crooks and Brittany Davis
Game Notes:Florida | Kansas 

Sunday caps a two-game road swing for the Gators who defeated Prairie View A&M Thursday evening. UF trailed for over 26 minutes and by seven heading into the fourth, but grinded out a 51-44 victory thanks to a strong performance in the final 10 minutes. UF scored the first 15 points of the quarter and held the Lady Panthers without a point for over eight minutes in the fourth. Redshirt-senior Zada Williams, leading the team in scoring for the second-straight game, poured in eight points in the fourth and 16 overall.
Williams has really enjoyed a successful start to her final year of college hoops, averaging 12.3 points and 8.4 rebounds through UF’s first eight games. The native Floridian has registered two double-doubles and started all eight contests and her averages are up across the board in comparison to her first eight games of the 2018-19 campaign when she averaged 7.6 points and 5.6 boards.
Lavender Briggs (13.4), Kiara Smith (12.4) and Williams (12.3) are all averaging double figures to open the season; UF is one of just three teams with three players ranked within the top 25 of the SEC in scoring. With six-straight games with 10 or more points and three double-doubles already this season, Briggs’ play has been instrumental in UF’s 6-2 start.
In addition to its multiple scoring threats, Florida’s defense and rebounding have also been potent.
Florida allowed just four points in the fourth quarter at Prairie View, its fewest points allowed in a quarter since it conceded two to Florida A&M on Dec. 9, 2018. The Gators have held their last six opponents below their scoring average and on four occasions they have held their opponent to less than 30 percent shooting.
The Gators have won the battle of the boards in seven of their eight games and rank No. 3 in the SEC in rebounding at 44.6 per game.
UF and KU have just one prior meeting as the squads met back in 1994. The No. 15 Gators pulled out a 58-56 victory over the No. 16 Kansas Jayhawks in the Wahine Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. Florida’s eventual all-time leading scorer, Merlakia Jones, tallied a team-best 12 points to lead the Gators. The Gators would earn their third consecutive bid to the NCAA Championship that year led by captains DeLisha Milton and Crystal Parker.
In 20 contests vs. Big 12 competition, Florida is 13-7.
Kansas, off to its third-straight 7-0 start, has played five of first seven games at home in addition to its two most recent matchups at the FAU Thanksgiving Tournament. The Jayhawks claimed the tournament title after posting victories over Wright State and the host Owls. Like Florida, KU features a trio of double-figure scorers in Holly Kersgieter, Zakiyah Franklin and Tina Stephens. Kersgieter, a freshman, is yet to appear in the starting lineup but paces the team with a 12.4 points per game average. KU was slated to finish 10th in the Big 12 Preseason Poll and returns six players from last year’s roster. Seven newcomers have joined the team this season, including the six-foot-two forward Stephens, who transferred in from Florida Southwestern College. KU ranks in the top half of the Big 12 in rebounds per game (44.0), steals (10.0) and turnover margin (15.0). The Jayhawks are under the direction of fifth-year head coach Brandon Schneider who spent 12 seasons at Division II Emporia State and five running the Stephen F. Austin program before taking the post in Lawrence in 2015.
The Big 12/SEC Challenge features 10 squads from the SEC against every team from the Big 12. This is the fourth season in which 10 games will be played. The format consists of five home games on campus sites for each conference. This year’s challenge includes four games that will feature at least one ranked opponent in either the Associated Press or USA TODAY Sports’ Coaches poll. The inaugural Big 12/SEC Challenge was held in 2014 with the first 10-game slate in 2016. The SEC edged the Big 12, 6-4 that year, with the conferences splitting the challenge, 5-5, the past two seasons.
Florida has posted a 2-0 record in the event which is in its sixth season. A season ago, UF notched a 72-67 win over Texas Tech and in the 2017-18 campaign the Gators earned an impressive victory at Oklahoma, 80-61.
Following Sunday’s tilt, the Gators next take the court Tuesday, Dec. 17 when they host Mercer for a nationally-televised game on SEC Network.

  • The Gators erased an eight-point deficit on the road at Prairie View A&M, their largest deficit overcome on the road since Feb. 12, 2017 when it battled back from being down eight at Alabama. It was the largest second half comeback UF has recorded since it came back from a 10-point deficit to defeat Arkansas in overtime on Jan. 28, 2016.
  • The Gators are outscoring their opponent 147-99 in the second quarter, their best scoring margin in any quarter so far this season. Florida has won every second quarter but one this season (vs. Indiana).
  • Florida has held its opponent to under 35 percent shooting five times already this season, a season ago they accomplished this just four times. The year prior the Gators did this three times and in 2016-17 it only happened six times. Florida ranks top five in the SEC in points allowed and defensive field goal percentage.
  • With victories at Grambling St. and at Prairie View A&M, Florida has won back-to-back road games for the first time since Nov. of 2016.
  • The Gators are off to a 6-2 start, their best open to a season since the 2016-17 slate. Florida didn’t win its sixth game until February of last season.
  • Freshman Lavender Briggs (35.6) leads the SEC in minutes played.

2019 Big 12/SEC Women’s Basketball Challenge Results/Schedule
December 4 (Wednesday)
1-Georgia at Baylor ESPN+ L 38-72
1-Ole Miss at Texas Tech FSSW+ L 48-84
December 5 (Thursday)
1-Iowa State at Alabama SEC Network L 66-75
Saturday, December 7
K-State at No. 23/24 Arkansas (SEC Network+), 2:00 p.m.
Auburn at TCU (HFTV), 2:00 p.m.
No. 25/RV LSU at Oklahoma (FSOK), 3:00 p.m.
Oklahoma State at No. 12/7 Texas A&M (SEC Network+), 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 8
Texas at No. 17/25 Tennessee (ESPN2), 1:00 p.m.
West Virginia at No. 10/8 Mississippi State (SEC Network), 1:00 p.m.
Florida at Kansas (Big 12 Now on ESPN+), 3:00 p.m.
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