The University of Florida women’s basketball team (11-5, 2-1), winners of consecutive conference games, faces a major test Sunday afternoon when it welcomes No. 14 Kentucky (13-2, 2-1) to Gainesville. Tipoff is slated for Noon ET at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center as the Gators and Wildcats square off for the 57th time.
|Sunday, Jan. 12
|Florida (11-5, 2-1) vs. No. 14 Kentucky (13-2, 2-1)
|Gainesville, Fla. | Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell
|ESPNU with Eric Frede and Christy Thomaskutty
|WRUF ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM with Kyle Crooks & Brittany Davis
|Florida | Kentucky
Paige Robinson Player Day
Elevate youth basketball halftime performance
Free admittance with Gymnastics ticket (Jan. 10 vs. Arkansas)
Florida enters the matchup fresh off a convincing 83-63 victory at Auburn Thursday night. The Gators’ offense was electric and their defense potent, as it led for over 37 minutes and picked apart the Tigers.
Shooting a blistering 61.5 percent from the floor, Florida notched its highest-ever shooting percentage in a conference game by draining 32 of its 52 shots.
The Gators attacked effectively from inside and out, but particularly from outside, as they connected on 10 of their 17 three-point tries. On the other end Florida, collected 12 steals and scored a season-best 26 points off Tiger miscues.
Individually speaking, several players compiled noteworthy performances and for the first time this season five Gators finished in double figures. Rookie standout Lavender Briggs led the way with a game-high 19 points while upperclassmen Kiki Smith notched 17 of her own to go with a career-best five steals.
The play of Nina Rickards was the story of the first half as she scored eight points in the first eight minutes of the game and ultimately finished with a career-high 13. Kristina Moore tied a career best output with 12 and Ariel Johnson registered 10 in a reserve role.
Briggs has been a constant on both ends for Florida as she enters Sunday having scored 10 or more points in 14-straight games, the program’s longest streak since the 2000-01 season. A more impressive accomplishment might be Briggs’ 14.6 points per game average, which not only leads all SEC rookies, but also is the program’s best mark for a freshman through their first 15 games in almost 30 years. Then freshman Merlakia Jones, who went on to score 2,001 points in the orange and blue â€“ the top mark in program history, averaged 15.2 points per game to open the 1991-92 campaign.
The play of UF’s freshmen cohort along with the improvement of several returners has helped fuel the Gators to their best start since the 2015-16 season.
Smith’s scoring is up 94 percent on the season compared to her last while Zada Williams continues to anchor Florida’s frontline with a 10.9 points per game average to go with a team-best 8.1 rebounds per.
Florida ranks second in the conference in games played by freshmen (59) and games started (22). Against Auburn, the freshmen class combined for 38 points and eight made 3-pointers.
No. 14 Kentucky, one of six SEC squads in the AP Top 25, enters the matchup with a 12-2 overall record. One of six league teams off to a 2-1 start, the Wildcats have posted back-to-back victories in conference action after dropping their SEC opener at South Carolina. The Wildcats notched an 81-71 victory at Auburn last time out.
Kentucky sophomore Rhyne Howard, the league’s leading scorer (23.9 points per game) and the reigning national freshman of the year, is fresh off a 43 point performance. The Tennessee native tied the program record with the scoring outburst and became the first player in program history to score 37 or more points in consecutive games after she scored 37 against Tennessee in the previous contest. She has scored 26 points or more in seven of her last eight games and ranks No. 1 nationally with 359 points scored.
UK was picked to finish fourth in the SEC Preseason Media Poll and returns three starters from last season’s squad, including Howard, KeKe McKinney and Tatyana Wyatt. Arizona State transfer Sabrina Haines is also an impact player for the Wildcats as she averages 10.2 points per contest. UK concedes just 54.6 points per game, the second-lowest figure in the SEC and leads the conference with a .388 three-point shooting percentage. Kentucky is under the direction of 13th-year head man Matthew Mitchell. The former Florida assistant has led the Wildcats to postseason appearances in 11 of his 12 seasons at the helm.
In the 56 all-time meetings between the programs, Kentucky holds a 31-25 edge. The Gators have had success at home in the series, winning 10 of the 13 matchups but UK has claimed the past four matchups and 12 of the last 15 meetings. Florida hasn’t picked up a victory in the series since Jan. 31, 2016 when it defeated No. 12 Kentucky, 85-79 at the O’Dome.
Following Sunday’s matchup with nationally-ranked Kentucky, Florida takes on another AP Top 25 foe Thursday when it hosts the No. 24 Tennessee Volunteers.
- With Thursday’s victory at Auburn, Florida sits at 2-1 in league play for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
- Through 16 games a season ago, Florida was 4-12. Through the same segment this season the Gators are 11-5 and off to their best start since the 2015-16 campaign. The Gators won just eight last season.
- Sunday Florida will take on its fourth AP Top 25 team and its third top 20 team at home.
- The Gators have held 11 of their opponents below their scoring average. On five occasions they have held their opponent to less than 30 percent shooting after only doing so twice last year.
- Florida’s 83-63 win at Auburn was its largest margin of victory in league game since it won at Vandy, 93-73 in Jan. of 2017.
- The last three matchups between Cam Newbauer and Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell have been decided by a combined 17 points. In the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Coach Newbauer’s No. 13-seeded Belmont Bruins fell 73-70 at No. 4 Kentucky. In 2018, Florida fell in a 56-53 nailbiter to the Wildcats in Gainesville.
- Matthew Mitchell spent three seasons as an assistant with Florida from 2000-03. He spent two campaigns with Carol Ross and one on staff with Carolyn Peck.
- In nine games played at home Ariel Johnson is averaging 11.1 points per game and has knocked down 16 three-pointers. On the road her average dips to 3.6 and she is yet to make a three-pointer.
- Florida has already surpassed last season’s win total at home with seven.