Gators Down Davidson in Non-Conference Finale

Box Score
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida women’s basketball team (9-4) ended 2019 and its non-conference season on a high note Sunday afternoon as it dispatched Davidson, 55-50 at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center

Florida finished the non-league slate with nine victories, its most since the 2016-17 campaign.

Sophomore Ariel Johnson, scoring in double figures for the seventh time this season, set a new career high with 16 points off the Florida bench while redshirt-junior Kiki Smith added 14 of her own to go with a career-high four steals.

After just two points in the first half, freshman Lavender Briggs got things cooking in the second, scoring 11 in the final 20 minutes of play. Briggs finished in double figures for the 11th straight game, the longest such streak by a Florida player since the 2006-07 season.

The Wildcats fought back to tie the game late in the fourth and the game was tight down the stretch, but clutch free throws from sophomore Kristina Moore with five seconds remaining put the game out of reach. Johnson scored five points in the final quarter as the Gators improved to 6-2 at home.

While redshirt-senior Zada Williams finished with just three points, her efforts on the glass were tremendous as she hauled in 15 boards, the second most in a game in her career.

After an eight-day holiday break, Florida struggled offensively at times shooting just 34.5 percent from the floor but its defense was stingy. The Gators limited Davidson to just 33.9 percent shooting, holding their opponent to below 35 percent shooting for the seventh time this season.

Johnson accounted for three of UF’s six made three-pointers and Moore ended the game with nine points.

Both teams started slow and went without scoring for the opening four minutes of the game. The Gators missed their first five shots, but responded by making their next three and led 7-4 at the under five minute media timeout. The Gators built a 14-7 lead in the first but saw the Wildcats score the final four points of the frame to trim the gap to 14-11. Florida made six of its last 10 shots to close the quarter.
Florida conceded just eight points in the second stanza and carried a 25-19 edge into the intermission. UF allowed just 19 first half points, its second fewest of the season. Smith led all scorers at the break with nine while Johnson recorded eight, including a long three-pointer to beat the second quarter buzzer. Shooting just 33 percent from the floor, the Gators struggled to find their offense early but put together a great half defensively.
Davidson opened the second half with a run and cut the deficit to just 32-29 at the third quarter media timeout. Briggs then scored six-straight points to give Florida some breathing room at 38-29, prompting a Davidson timeout. The Wildcats fought back, responding with a 7-0 run to close the frame and Florida led just 38-36 heading into the fourth.
Briggs’ offensive excellence continued on into the fourth as she scored the Gators’ first four points. The Gators’ advantage surged to six after Johnson converted a jumper with seven minutes to play. Davidson answered right back again with a 6-0 run to knot the score at 47-47, the game’s first tie since it was 4-4.
On the ensuing possession, a layup from Moore put Florida back ahead 49-47 and it wouldn’t trail from this point forward.
Sarah Konstans’ fifth 3-pointer of the game drew the Wildcats to within one at 51-50 with 1:25 to play but those were the last points they would score.
After late Davidson fouls, Johnson and Williams would split their respective trips to the charity stripe which left the door open for the Wildcats. Trailing just 53-50, Davidson had a shot to tie but turned the ball over with six seconds to play.

Konstans paced the Wildcats with 17 points.

Florida’s next matchup will be a conference clash as it kicks off its 2020 SEC slate Thursday, Jan. 2 at No. 15 Mississippi State.

Thursday, Jan. 2 | 8:10 p.m. ET
Florida (9-4) vs. No. 15 Mississippi State (12-2)
Humphrey Coliseum | Starkville, Miss.  
SEC Opener

Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement…
 “Loved the fact that we took care of it today and got the W. Hats off to Davidson. They played their tails off and made some big plays when they had to. It was a great game today. I was really proud of Ari [Johnson]. She made some huge shots in timely moments for us. The step-back three in the first half was tremendous. We’ve talked with Ari a lot lately about keeping her eyes on the rim and staying aggressive and loose. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way and I think this year, so far, Ari hasn’t gotten the greatest bounces, but she’s done a great job of staying courageous, keeping her eyes on the rim, and trusting that it’s going to get better.
It wasn’t pretty or the way you draw it up, but the great thing is that we have some good areas to improve on. We got nine wins in the non-conference season which is tremendous for us. I’m proud of our group and how they continue to battle and get better. We’ll have tomorrow off and then we’ll get ready for our first SEC game.”
On takeaways from this game…
“It’s just figuring out how to win games with different people in different moments at home and on the road. Today, Ari [Johnson] stepped up and made some big plays. We had road games earlier in the season where young kids had to make big plays and they did. The different ways we’ve won games and fought ourselves through to victory; it’s just great to see that resolve. I think we’ve done a good job of doing what the game calls for in that moment.”
On Kristina Moore’s game-sealing free throws…
“It was great. She stepped up calm, cool, and collected and just knocked them down. Like she’s done many times before, she just trusted her training. It was great to see. It gave us breathing room.”
On Kiki Smith’s play…
“She’s got charisma. The personality, the smile, the energy, the toughness, the drive. It’s awesome because she really helps build our culture with how much she can connect with different players on our team. She’s been such a pleasure to coach for the two years that we’ve had her and become better faster than I thought she could. She affects the game in so many different ways.”
On upcoming conference play…
“I took this job because I want to know what it’s like to play against the best and to be in the best conference in the country. That’s why a lot of our players came to the University of Florida. It’s because the SEC is the best conference in the country. To get to coach against the best coaches and play against the best players in some of the best environments in the country in college basketball is really special. It’s not easy at all, but the challenge is what drives you to work harder. The excitement of just knowing that you’re at the table with those teams and you have a shot every time you show up, but you have to show up and fight and claw for every possession. That’s what makes it so exciting.”
No. 1 Kiki Smith, Guard
On the team’s slow shooting start…
“We just have to realize that we have to be aggressive. I think once we realized that we’re aggressive and can get to the rim whenever we want to, that’s when shots started to fall.”
On Zada Williams’ effort today…
“I can see everything that Zada works on. This whole season she’s been proving to the fans, to the team, to the coaches, that she’s a beast in the paint. Today she made some big plays. Like Coach Cam said, we had a lot of players that made big time plays. She stood up in the moment and she ran with it.”
No. 32 Ariel Johnson, Guard
On coming off the bench…
“Honestly, I still have the same mentality when I start. Either way, I just come off the bench and do whatever I can to contribute to my team.”
On her comfort level shooting at home…
“I definitely do feel more comfortable at home. I still have a lot of things to improve on our court and on the road as well.”
On her first half buzzer beater…
“I was just focused. The game wasn’t over yet, so I wanted to stay focused.”

  • Sunday marked the first-ever meeting between Florida and Davidson. The Wildcats were the third team this season that Florida faces for the first time.
  • Lavender Briggs now has 11-straight games with 10 or more points, the longest streak since the 2006-07 (Sha Brooks, 12).
  • Kiki Smith scored in double figures for the eleventh time this season.
  • Sunday marked the fourth-straight game a Florida player set a new career high in points.
  • Florida has surpassed last season’s win total (8).
  • Florida finished the non-conference slate with nine wins, its most since the 2016-17 season.
  • Florida won its ninth-straight non-conference finale.
  • The Gators improved to 24-4 against the Atlantic 10 all time.
  • Florida is now 4-1 this season when the score is decided by seven points or less.
  • Florida has now held nine of their last 11 opponents below their scoring average (Davidson, 70.8 ppg).
  • Ariel Johnson finished in double figures for the seventh time this season.
  • Zada Williams notched her fifth career game with 10 or more rebounds.

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