Briggs Lifts Gators to Victory Over Ole Miss

Box Score | Highlights | Game Recap + Briggs Interview 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Fueled by freshman Lavender Briggs’ 23 points and eight rebounds, the University of Florida women’s basketball team was victorious Thursday night as it held on to defeat Ole Miss, 74-72 in a thriller at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Briggs, tying her career high, came through in a major way for the Gators late in the game knocking down the eventual game-winning free throws and the game-sealing steal on the final possession.
With the score knotted at 72-72 and just 20 seconds remaining in regulation, the freshman calmly converted both of her tries from the line to put the Gators ahead. After her second attempt was true, Ole Miss elected not to a call a timeout and advanced the ball up the court for one final shot to tie or win it.
Briggs would come up big just seconds after her clutch free throw conversions when she dove into the passing lane and collected a crucial steal as time expired.
The first-year standout made a living at the line, registering 11 free throws made on 13 attempts, establishing career highs in both categories.
Redshirt-junior Kiki Smith added 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and Kristina Moore tallied 10 to round out UF’s trio of double-digit scorers.
The Gators (13-11, 4-7), who faced a fourth quarter deficit as a large as four, won for the first time when trailing with under five minutes to play.
With four conference victories, Florida has surpassed its SEC win total from each of the last two seasons.
Florida got off to a smashing start, surging to an 18-point lead in the first half. The Rebels (7-17, 0-11) wouldn’t quit as they clawed all the way back with efficient three-point shooting.
Before Briggs’ heroics, classmate Faith Dut scored on a crucial possession with 1:28 remaining to tie the score. Dut, who has 17 points in the last two games including a new career-high nine on Thursday, dropped in a smooth jump hook when the Gators were in dire need of a basket.
The Canadian forward, Dut, continued her recent stretch of improved play.
With Florida down 66-62 and Ole Miss beginning to really seize the momentum, Zada Williams was perfect on a pair of free throws to halt the run. Williams, who was just 1-of-6 from the line before her attempts at the 4:59 mark, rose to the occasion.
Williams finished just shy of what would have been her third-straight double-double with a nine point, nine rebound performance.
The Rebels entered the game averaging just 5.0 made three-point baskets per game but exploded for 10. Shooting 10-of-19 from distance, Ole Miss wouldn’t go away as DePaul transfer Deja Cage poured in 23 points of her own and five triples.
Briggs’ 11 free throws tied the SEC high this season.
UF won the battle of the boards 40-29 and dominated the points in the paint statistic, 44-28.
Florida got off to a blazing start, opening the game on a 9-0 run and making four of its first five shots. Brylee Bartram, who made multiple three-pointers in a contest for the 10th time this season, knocked down three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Gators a 17-6 cushion. After starting 7-of-8 from the field, Florida led 19-7 at the first quarter media timeout.
The Gators made six-straight shots to open up a 14-point lead. Florida’s offense was flowing early as it scored more points in the first seven minutes of the game (21) than it did in the entire second half last time out. The Rebels endured a scoreless run of over four minutes in the frame as UF continued to build their edge.
The Gators led 27-14 after the first quarter had expired after registering made field goals on nine of their 14 attempts in the frame. Briggs pushed the issue and played aggressively from the onset, getting to the line seven times and making a career-high six free throws in the quarter. Florida’s 27 first quarter points were the second most it had scored in a first quarter all season and its most since December.
After being limited to just six points last time out vs. Georgia, Briggs poured in 10 points in the first quarter alone.
The Rebels countered quickly though to open the second, utilizing a 16-3 run to slice into the lead. What once was an 18-point advantage quickly shrunk to 27-23 after the Rebels scored the second quarter’s first nine points. After shooting the lights out early, Florida started 1-of-11 from the field in the second quarter.
UF’s first point in the period wouldn’t come until the 5:14 when Dut converted a free throw. The Rebels outscored them 18-8 in the second and the Gators clung to a 35-32 advantage at the half.
Florida’s offense stalled in the second, and despite its ability to get to the free throw line 11 times, it converted just four tries. Briggs led all scorers with 11 points in the first half.
Florida restored its lead back to two-possessions early in the third but Ole Miss stormed back to make it 41-40 at the 6:04 mark in the third.
At the quarter’s media timeout, Florida led 46-42 after making four of its first eight shots to open. The Rebels closed the gap to one at 45-44 but the Gators made three-straight shots to build their lead back to seven. The teams played to an even 21-21 tally, and Florida’s lead stood at 56-53 heading into the final stanza.
Briggs knocked down a jumper to kick off the fourth quarter but Ole Miss tied the game at 58-58 with a 5-0 spurt. Drilling her fifth 3-pointer of the game, Cage gave the Rebels their first lead of the game at 61-60 with just a tick over eight minutes to play.
The next few possessions consisted of back-and-forth play. Ole Miss took a 66-62 lead with 5:24 remaining after Mimi Reid, who played all 40 minutes and scored 16, made a free throw.
Ole Miss kept its lead at two possessions until the 3:20 mark when Nina Rickards scored a timely basket as the shot clock expired.
Smith tied the game at 70-70 with a layup but Cage put Ole Miss back ahead with a jumper at the 1:48 mark. Dut would answer the bell on the next possession and Florida scored the game’s final four points.

Moore, scoring in double figures for the first time since Jan. 9 vs. Auburn, finished 4-of-7 from the floor and collected three steals. 
Sunday, Feb. 16 | 3 p.m. ET
Florida (13-11, 4-7) at Missouri (6-18, 3-8)
Mizzou Arena | Columbia, Mo.

  • With four conference victories, Florida has surpassed its SEC win total from each of the last two seasons.
  • Thursday marked Florida’s eighth win at home this season, its most in four years.
  • The Gators have won two in a row vs. Ole Miss and lead the series, 23-19.
  • The Gators have just five remaining regular season contests and just two of those will be at home (Arkansas, Feb. 23 and South Carolina, Feb. 27).
  • Lavender Briggs matched her career-high with 23 points (last vs. Wake Forest, 12/21/19).
    • Briggs tallied a career-high 11 free throws in a career-high 13 trips to the line.
  • KiKi Smith tallied her 17th contest reaching doubles figures (12 points).
  • Kristina Moore reached double figures for her fourth contest this season with 10 points.
  • UF outrebounded Ole Miss by double digits, 40-29.
    • UF has outrebounded its opponent in 14 games and is now 12-2 when doing so.
    • Zada Williams grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
  • Ole Miss held UF to just eight points in the second quarter – the lowest point total in a second quarter for UF through conference play
    • UF is outscoring opponents 373-335 overall in the second quarter prior to tonight.
  • Ariel Johnson matched a season-high with four assists.

Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement…
“Hats off to Ole Miss, incredible performance by them. They were 10 of 19 from the three-point line, that’s big time. Taylor Smith really stepped up for them and had 15 points. That’s not a player that typically scores a lot for them. (Deja) Cage is dangerous. She can put points on the board quickly and so does (Jayla) Alexander. We did a good job on her, but then (Mimi) Reid and Smith did a good job of attacking and knocking down shots. I wasn’t really happy with our defensive effort at times. We had some problems on the offensive end where we couldn’t get out in transition, but overall, we made a lot of plays in that fourth quarter that we needed to win the game. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. We won the game. I’m proud of our kids for their resolve and toughness because we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well and I didn’t think we flowed as well offensively at times. Lav (Briggs) shoots 13 free throws and did a good job of being aggressive today. Kristina (Moore) did a really good job attacking the glass. Incredible finishes in there that were great to see her get. Faith Dut followed up her career high of eight today with nine. She had a really nice finish at the end where she faked the handoff and drove it. It was good to see her have the confidence to take that shot. Zada (Williams) went for nine (points) and nine (rebounds) again. More importantly, she hits those two free throws with under a minute to go to tie the game. I like that we kept fighting and kept playing the next play. We didn’t particularly play well at times, but we kept playing for what was next and got the job done. I’m proud of our kids for getting that win. (Ole Miss) is a tough, dangerous team. Hats off to them for that effort.”

On responding after the Georgia setback …
“We wanted to come out fast and we did that. I was worried about coming out too fast and defensively letting up because that’s a team that was down 32-10 to Missouri and in a matter of nine minutes it was 39-36. It’s what they do. Once they settle in, they’re dangerous because they can hit shots and they spread the floor well. It was great that we started that fast and that’s what we did in the Georgia game and then shots stopped falling and our defense lagged a little bit. We have to switch that because you still have to get stops… I liked it from an offensive standpoint and defensively it was okay, but three of their first four makes were threes, so defensively we have to get better. We’re going to Missouri on Sunday and that’s what they do. I believe they lead the conference in threes.  We have to do a better job covering the three-point line.”

On finding balance after the first quarter …
“We want to try to keep the flow and the movement that we had going. We started to take a lot of quicker shots. Rushed shots, I think. We played a little fast. I think we thought we could keep playing really fast and then we actually played a notch faster and now it’s out of control. We just had to get back under control and make good decisions. We still had moments like that in the second half… You have to play under control, and you have to recognize that you’re playing too fast. It’s a combination of that and you see that you score 27 in the first quarter and you think you can do that every quarter by playing fast. When you start playing too fast, you have to recognize and focus and concentrate on the best decisions.”
On keeping the team calm…
“I just try to keep us in the present moment. Just stay where we are and get one stop at a time. That’s what we did. It wasn’t about what had happened or anybody’s record. It was just about how do we take care of business and finish this game. For Zada and Lav to hit those free throws and then for Lav to make that defensive read at the end, it was great.  I’m just proud of our team for fighting through it. We didn’t call any timeouts or draw any special plays on offense or defense. That was our team making basketball plays when they had to. We made the plays that we had to win the game and that’s why I’m proud of our team right now.”
No. 3 Lavender Briggs
On what tonight tells her about her progression this season…
 “I love how much confidence my teammates have in me, my coach… it gives me a boost of confidence throughout the game, even though I’m not knocking down shots.”
On what was going through her mind as she shot the free throws…
“I have to knock these down, that they’re really important and that we need them.”
On the team’s main focus during their last defensive stand…
“Just being really active on defense and having our hands up and knowing where the shooters are to not let them get any shots.”

On her approach…
“I’m always looking to score, but just trying to draw in the defense and hit somebody open, if I can, and score.”
No. 14 Kristina Moore
On the team’s grit…
“Credit to Ole Miss. They played very hard. They’re very scrappy. It’s always a challenge to play against teams like that, but we just really have to pull ourselves together. We haven’t really been ourselves the past couple of games, so I think this was very important for us to bring back together and see who we really are… show others what we really can do.”
On what enabled the team to push through adversity offensively….
“Definitely ball movement… that’s something [Coach Newbauer] stressed at halftime. We couldn’t really get anywhere with one on one plays, quick shots…I mean, we can push hard in transition plays but it wasn’t really flowing for this game. Ball movement was key because they [weren’t playing well] on defense. We can get a wide open shot.”
On how tonight’s ten points will affect her confidence…
“It’s important for me not to put too much stress on how much I score. It’s more about what else I can do to help my teammates. I really pride myself on playing hard, and that’s something I can always control. It does help, scoring, it does build your confidence, but making sure you control the controllables is really important.”
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