Gators Push No. 12 Seminoles to the Brink in Sunshine Showdown

Squaring off against its second-straight AP Top 25 opponent, the University of Florida women’s basketball team took No. 12 Florida State to the wire, but ultimately dropped a hard-fought 66-55 decision Tuesday evening at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Florida fought back from a 13-point first half deficit and trailed just 46-44 heading into the fourth quarter, but saw the Seminoles pull away late in the 76th all-time meeting between the in-state foes.
Redshirt-junior guard Kiki Smith, finishing with 10 or more points for the fourth time this season, led the way with 14 tallies and five rebounds. Zada Williams contributed 12 points and 11 boards as the Florida native collected her second career double-double and her first since her Gator debut last season.
Florida’s defense which has been stout to open the 2019-20 campaign, held the Seminoles to 15 points fewer than their season average. In addition to its strong defensive effort, UF valued possessions on the other end, registering just eight turnovers.
Scoring in double-figures for the fourth-straight game for the first time in her career, Ari Johnson added 12 points and seven rebounds while freshman standout Lavender Briggs, returning to the starting lineup, recorded 10 points.
After Florida outscored FSU in both the second and third quarters to make it a one possession game with just the fourth quarter remaining, FSU surged ahead with a 5-0 run to open the final period. Kristina Moore converted an old-fashioned three-point play to draw Florida within seven points at 58-51 at the 5:02 mark, but the Seminoles then utilized an 8-1 run to carry a double-digit lead late in the game.
The veteran-laden Seminoles, projected to finish third in the ACC this season, saw three players finish in double-figures as Kiah Gillespie led with 17 points and 18 rebounds.
Florida struggled a bit out of the gate but hit its stride in the second and third quarters, outscoring FSU 28-21 over that span.

After FSU opened the game with a scoring flurry in which it converted six of its first seven shots, Florida faced a 25-16 deficit at the end of the opening 10 minutes. Smith was terrific in the first, tallying nine points on 4-of-6 shooting.
The Gators battled back in the second quarter, with runs at the beginning and end of the frame. UF opened with six-straight points and closed the quarter on a 5-0 run which culminated with a three-pointer from the right wing as time expired courtesy of Johnson. The Gators outscored FSU, 15-11 in the stanza.
Smith led all scorers with 12 points at the intermission.
Florida kept the momentum in its favor, winning the third quarter, 13-10. Five-straight scores from the first-year guard Briggs allowed Florida to tie the score at 38-38 with 6:45 to play. FSU then countered with a 7-0 run, but the Gators notched a 6-1 scoring stretch to close the frame and trim the deficit to just two. 
FSU outscored the Gators, 20-11 in the final period.
While the Gators dropped the final two contests of the month – both against top 20 opponents – they finished November with a 4-2 mark which marks their best start since the 2016-17 season.
Sunday, Dec. 1 
Florida (4-2) vs. Florida A&M (2-3)
Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center 
Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement…
“I loved our fight and our resolve. We didn’t shoot the ball very well at all, but we kept getting the right shots and we got stops in big moments. We had multiple opportunities to take the lead and shots just didn’t go down. We kept fighting. It wasn’t pretty, but we fought. We’re a young team. They’re the 12th team in the country. That’s a really good team. For us, with our young group, to go up against them the way they did and shooting as poorly as we did, but still be in the game is a good sign. 11 points is not indicative of what the game actually was. I think we got better tonight and learned a lot. We’ve got plenty to work on and we’re excited to get back in the gym.”
On the lack of turnovers…
It’s great. On the flip side, we only had seven assists, but I do like that we’re being aggressive and making better decisions. We want more than seven assists on 23 field goals. We’re doing a better job taking care of the ball and I think we’re getting the right shots which is an indication of the turnovers being lower. We’re getting the right shots; they just didn’t fall today. Some of that is because of their defense. We were gassed in the first half. That’s a team that wants to push. If you would have told me that we would hold them to 66 after having 25 right away and having 11 and 10 in the second and third, I would have thought you were crazy. The start of the game and the end of the game is where they took over with their speed and athleticism. We talked about them being a senior-laden team. Their three big seniors had great games. We’re getting right shots, they’re just not falling down and when they do, we’ll have a lot more assists. We have to keep our eyes on the rim and keep focus on gaining confidence.”
On the team’s fourth quarter…
“It makes a difference when you see the ball go in the basket. When you’re playing a tough, physical team like Florida State, they wear you down with their size, athleticism and speed. In the fourth quarter, naturally, you’re going to be tired. If you’re not seeing the ball go through the hoop, it can be really hard to finish the right way. I called the timeout late in the game because I wanted us to finish the right way. The hardest thing to do in sports is to know a game is decided and still play as hard as you can. It’s hard. My point with our team is that you have to trust and understand that it’s going to come back in your favor at some point if you learn how to do it when it’s the hardest time. When the game is decided and you’re not going to win. You have to finish the right way.”

Redshirt-junior Guard Kiki Smith
On the team’s 4-2 start…
“We’re growing as a team. Every day we get in the gym, we’re getting better and better. Each game, I see something different that we worked on in practice that when we get in the game, we execute it. We’re just growing. Coach Cam says just get in the gym every day [and] work on the things we continue to work on.”

On valuing possessions…
“It’s [the team’s] chemistry. It’s wanting to play hard and tightening up on things that we know we need to tighten up on, especially for this game. We’re coming into it ready to play.”

On her 12 point first half…
“[I was] just being aggressive, taking what the defense gave me. Coming into a game like this, I knew I was going to have to get to the rim and be more physical so that’s what I was looking to do early on.”
Redshirt-senior Forward Zada Williams
On her performance…
“We knew coming into this game we had to be really physical and be strong. We can’t let them push us around like they do a lot of teams, so shout out to my teammates. They just kept feeding me the ball, kept finding me. Everybody played really hard and we fed it to one another.”

  • Tuesday marked the 76th meeting between Florida and FSU. The 76 games played are UF’s most against any single opponent.
  • UF’s advantage in the series falls to 42-34 and its now is 3-6 all time when facing off against ranked FSU teams.
  • Freshman guard Lavender Briggs returned to the starting lineup after missing Friday’s contest vs. Indiana due to injury.
  • Florida held the Seminoles to their second lowest 3-point field goal percentage this season (23.1 percent, 3-13 3FG).
  • Florida’s starters accounted for 100 percent of its scoring.
  • Florida State tallied 42 of their 66 points inside the paint.
  • Florida State led for 38:52, with the score being tied just twice throughout the contest.
    • Florida used a 7-0 run to knot the score at 38-38 at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter.
  • The Gators were outrebounded for the first time this season, 47-41.
  • The Gators are outscoring opponents 111-77 in the second quarter, their best scoring margin in any quarter.
    • Florida outscored Florida State, 13-10, in the second quarter Tuesday.
  • The Gators committed only eight turnovers in the contest, their lowest number of turnovers recorded this season.
  • Florida had four scorers in double figures for the third time this season (Smith – 14, Williams – 12, Johnson – 12, Briggs – 10).
  • Three Gators made at least two 3-pointers in the contest for the third time this season (Smith – 2, Briggs – 2, Johnson – 2).

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