Florida Drops Nailbiter at Georgia

Box Score
 | Highlights

ATHENS, Ga. – In a back-and-forth contest at Stegeman Coliseum, the University of Florida women’s basketball team (15-14, 6-10) came up just short to the Georgia Lady Bulldogs (16-13, 7-9) as it fell 65-59 Sunday afternoon in its regular season finale.

Florida led by as many as eight and for nearly 25 minutes in the matchup, but Georgia outscored the Gators 27-14 in the fourth quarter to win its six-straight in the series.

Lavender Briggs fought hard for her team-best seventh double-double, the most compiled by a UF freshman since the 2002-03 season, but her 13 points and 10 rebounds weren’t enough to push Florida past the Lady Bulldogs. Joining Briggs in double figures was sophomore Emanuely de Oliveira who poured in 10 points and made all five of her tries from the charity stripe. The Brazilian helped fuel a major third quarter run for the Gators with six-straight points.

After outscoring the Lady Bulldogs 22-11 in the third quarter Florida held a 45-38 lead heading into the fourth, but Georgia responded with a 14-0 run in the deciding frame to win for the 10th time at home this season.

With the loss, Florida has been assigned the No. 10 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament and for the first time since the 2015-16 season, the Gators receive a first round bye.

Florida’s offense came from a variety of sources as Zada WilliamsNina Rickards, Kiki Smith and Ariel Johnson all also scored seven more or more points.

The game featured five lead changes and three ties as the teams battled with conference tournament seeding in the balance. With the win Georgia clinches the No. 9 seed and will take on No. 8 Alabama.

Rickards finished with nine points and four rebounds while Johnson tallied eight points, four rebounds and finished two timely and and-1 plays.

Georgia’s Jenna Staiti put together a big game with 20 points and 12 rebounds, leading all scorers.

Florida made four of its first five shots and led 9-6 early and then eventually carried a 13-10 lead at the first quarter media timeout. After a hot start in which it made six of its first 12 attempts, Florida’s shooting would cool down with a 1-of-6 shooting stretch to conclude the frame. Despite the offensive stall, UF’s defense never wavered as it carried a 17-10 edge at quarter’s end. Seven different Gators scored in the opening stanza while Staiti added eight of UGA’s 10 tallies.

The Lady Bulldogs opened the second on a 7-0 run to knot the score at 17-17 after UF missed its first six shots and went without a point for nearly four minutes. Rickards broke through to score on back-to-back trips to put Florida ahead 21-20. UGA then employed another 7-0 run to snag a 27-21 lead with 50 seconds remaining. Williams connected on her third field of the half to snap the run and cut the deficit to four heading into the break.

The Gators shot 10-of-33 for the half but held a 23-21 edge on the glass.

The third quarter saw an invigorated Gator effort. Briggs came out determined and scored UF’s first five points. The next six came courtesy of de Oliveira who scored on a momentous and-1 and nailed a three-pointer on consecutive possessions to put Florida in front 34-30 with 4:45 to play. Florida seized the game’s momentum with a 15-3 run.

After 23 first half points, the Gators racked up 22 in the third quarter alone and held UGA to just 11. Aggressive play yielded high-percentage shots and 10 free throw attempts. The recharged Gators made seven of their 13 field goal attempts at a 53.8 percent clip and limited the Lady Bulldogs to 25 percent shooting.

Following the turnaround, Florida led 45-38 heading in to the final stanza.

After the third quarter belonged to Florida, Georgia reasserted itself by scoring 13 of the fourth quarter’s first 16 points. Rickards put Florida ahead 48-41, but UGA scored the next nine points and led 49-48 after a three-minute scoreless spell from the Gators. The Lady Bulldogs’ run extended to 10-0 and it led 51-48 at the under five media timeout. Florida’s offense continued to be stagnant while UGA scored four more points to grow its run to 14-0. Johnson broke the streak with an and-1 conversion with 2:38 to make it 55-51.

The Gators rallied back though as Smith knocked down one of two tries from the line to make it 55-52 with two minutes to play. After a steal from Briggs, Florida had a chance to tie or draw within one on the next possession with just 60 seconds on the clock but Kristina Moore saw her floater blocked by UGA’s six-foot-five center Staiti.

From here on, the Gators and Lady Bulldogs would trade field goals and free throws. The Gators extended the contest and clawed within three on two more occasions but UGA closed the game out on the free throw line.
Thursday, March 5
No. 10 Florida (15-14, 6-10) vs. No. 7 TBA
Bon Secours Wellness Arena | Greenville, SC

  • For the first time since the 2015-16 season, the Gators receive a first round bye at the upcoming SEC Tournament in Greenville, March 4-8.
  • Sunday marked the 76th meeting between the programs, tied with FSU for the most games against one opponent in program history.
  • For the third time in the last five years, UF concluded its regular season against Georgia.
  • Lavender Briggs finished in double figures for the 25th time this season.
  • Briggs collected her seventh double-double.
  • Emanuely de Oliveira scored in double figures for the fourth time, and her second time at Stegeman Coliseum.
  • Ariel Johnson scored seven or more points for the fourth time in her last five games.
  • Florida outrebounded its opponent for the 18th time this season, holding a 45-41 edge.
  • UF made 14 free throws, its fourth-most in a contest this season.
  • Florida is 22-24 all-time in regular season finales.
  • With a seven-win turnaround (8-23 in 2018-19), Florida has the fifth-largest turnaround in program history year to year and with one more victory would double its win total.

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