Florida Travels to Alabama Thursday

Winners of back-to-back Southeastern Conference contests, the University of Florida women’s basketball team (14-11, 5-7) returns to action Thursday night when it travels to Alabama (14-11, 4-8) for an 8 p.m. ET matchup with the Crimson Tide at Coleman Coliseum.
With just four regular season games left on the docket for the Gators, each remaining game looms large including Thursday’s clash in Tuscaloosa, which will be the 61st all time meeting between the programs.

Date:Thursday, Feb. 20
Time:8 p.m. ET
Matchup:Florida (14-11, 5-7) at Alabama (14-11, 4-8)
Location:Coleman Coliseum (15,316) | Tuscaloosa, Ala. 
Live Stream:SEC Network+ with Eli Gold & Katie Hancock
Live Stats: Here
Radio:WRUF ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM  with Kyle Crooks & Brittany Davis
Game Notes:Florida | Alabama 

The Gators, who have won three of their last four, have some momentum at their backs after posting a 2-0 record last week. UF began the week by posting a 74-72 win over Ole Miss in thrilling fashion at home and followed that up with a 75-67 victory at Mizzou, its first-ever in Columbia. In its first win, points in the paint and clutch play down the stretch were crucial while three-point shooting, in particular a career-best performance from freshman Brylee Bartram, was story on Sunday. Florida made just three 3-pointers against Ole Miss and tallied 44 points in the paint, but showing another dimension to its game, drained 12 treys at Missouri, its most in a road game this season.
A constant in both victories was the effort of first-year standout Lavender Briggs. Briggs averaged 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists for the week and tied a career high with 23 points against Ole Miss. Against Missouri, Briggs tied Bartram for the team high with 18 points in the Gators’ impressive road win. As a result, Briggs earned UF’s first SEC Freshman of the Week honor in over three years when she collected the accolade on Tuesday. 
Briggs leads the Gators in scoring at 14.3 points per game and is tied for the league high among freshmen. With 344 points this season, Briggs ranks 10th in program history in freshmen scoring and should be able to continue to climb the charts with at least five more contests to go.
Not to be overlooked though are the steady contributions of redshirt-senior Zada Williams, who over the last five game is averaging 12.0 points and 9.4 rebounds on .735 shooting. She has three double-doubles during that span and continues to anchor the Gator defense.
Florida’s bench play was also quite impactful in its win Sunday, as it scored a collective 29 points which set a new season best. 18 of those came courtesy of Bartram, who established a new career high in points and made three-pointers (6).
Bartram and Briggs are key contributors in Florida’s young core of talent. Florida leads the conference in games played by true underclassmen (160) and freshmen and sophomores account for 63 percent of its total offense.
Contributions from Florida’s emerging young players and steady play from a few veterans have allowed it to surpass its win totals from each of the last two seasons. The Gators have won five conference games, something the program hasn’t done since the 2016-17 season.
Florida’s wins over Ole Miss and Mizzou in succession mark the latest in a season it has won consecutive conference games since Feb. of 2016.
The Gators and Crimson Tide feature identical records at 14-11 but Florida has the edge in SEC standings as it enters at 5-7 compared to UA’s 4-8 mark.
In 2018-19, the Gators and Crimson Tide met twice and the home team held serve each time. Florida dropped a 74-67 decision in Tuscaloosa in its SEC opener but evened the score with a dramatic 57-55 victory in Gainesville in February.

After Florida rattled off seven-consecutive victories in the series from 2012-2017, the Crimson Tide have been victorious in two of the last three. 
The Tide, slated to finish 11th in both the preseason media and coaches poll, have matched their win total from a season ago (14-17). Alabama has one of the league’s most potent offensive attacks as it ranks fourth in the SEC scoring 72.2 points per game and fourth in three-pointers made per game (6.8). Redshirt-junior guard Jordan Lewis paces the Alabama offense with a 13.1 points per game average and also leads the way with 90 assists. Classmate Jasmine Walker, a forward, also averages double figures at 11.4 points per game to go along with a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game. Alabama enters the game with losses in two of its last three contests, but both verdicts came by fewer than four points. In its most recent matchup at Georgia on Sunday, it battled all the way back from a 22 point deficit but came up short in overtime, 76-75.
UA is under the direction of seventh-year head coach Kristy Curry, who has amassed a 112-107 record in Tuscaloosa. She has over 400 wins overall in her 21 year coaching career.
Following Thursday’s road game, Florida returns to Gainesville Sunday to host Arkansas. Sunday’s matchup with the No. 22 Razorbacks is shaping up to be an exciting day as it marks the team’s Senior Sendoff for Williams and Paige Robinson. It will also be the program’s annual Play4Kay cancer awareness game and the final Sundae Sunday.

  • At Missouri, Florida made 12 of its 28 three-point attempts. For the Gators, it was a new season high for three-pointers hit on the road. UF is 4-0 when hitting 10 or more.
  • After winning just one road game a season ago, Florida has five in 2019-20. The Gators haven’t won more than five road games since the 2015-16 season, its last NCAA Tournament appearance.
  • 2020 signee Jordyn Merritt (Plano, Texas) was named to the Jordan Brand Classic roster last week, one of just 27 players nationwide to earn a spot in the prep showcase. Merritt’s recognition marks the second-straight season a Florida signee has been tabbed to the Jordan Brand Classic after Lavender Briggs became the first player in program history to play in the game in 2019. The event, in its 19th year overall and sixth for the girl’s game, will be played in Chicago on March 27. A five-star recruit and the nation’s No. 27 overall player according to ESPN HoopGurlz, Merritt became the highest-ranked recruit to sign with Florida since 2013.
  • With just four games remaining, each game looms large as tournament seeding remains unestablished up and down the standings. The Gators (5-7) are tied for 8th with UGA while Alabama sets alone in 10th.
  • Freshman guard Nina Rickards has really come on strong in SEC play. At .407 Rickards leads the team in three-point shooting in league play and has four games with 10 or more points after just one such game in the non-conference slate.
  • After her career game vs. Mizzou, Brylee Bartram now has made multiple three-pointers in 11 games.
  • Zada Williams leads the team with a .628 field goal percentage. Only six times in the history of the program has a player shot north of .600 for the season (minimum 50 field goals made). For her Florida career, Williams has a .544 shooting percentage.
  • Redshirt-junior guard Kiki Smith ranks second on the team in scoring (11.9 per game) and leads the team in assists, steals and free throws attempted.