Gators Chomp Commodores in SEC Home Opener

Box Score | Highlights | SEC Network Recap | Postgame Press Conference 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Paced by freshman Lavender Briggs’ 19 points, the University of Florida women’s basketball team (10-5, 1-1) posted a 68-60 victory Sunday afternoon over visiting Vanderbilt (11-4, 1-1) at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in its 2020 SEC home opener.

The Gators faced an early seven-point deficit but wouldn’t be denied as they picked up a win in their conference home opener for the first time since 2014.

Scoring in double figures for the 13th-straight game, Briggs was again terrific as she registered 15 or more for the ninth time this season. Redshirt-junior guard Kiki Smith also finished in double figures scoring 17 points to go with five assists.

Florida, improving to 9-1 when outrebounding its opponent, won the battle of the boards 42-35. Sunday marked the first time in 15 games that Vanderbilt was outrebounded and it entered the contest with a +10.8 rebound margin.

Zada Williams, who had just seven points combined in her last two games, broke through for third double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Coming off the bench for the sixth-straight game, sophomore Ariel Johnson continued her strong play at the O’Connell Center as she added 10 of her own coupled with a season-best eight rebounds.

Smith now has 12 double-figure scoring games this season, surpassing her total of 11 from last season.

Florida led for 25 minutes in the game and by as many as 11 in third quarter, but Vanderbilt drew within one point with less than five minutes to play. Clinging to a 55-54 advantage, Florida responded in a big way with an 8-0 scoring surge. Florida’s lead wouldn’t shrink to less than six points the rest of the way home.

The Commodores led 19-17 after the first quarter, but Florida would claim each ensuing period to secure win number 10 on the season.

Johnson, scoring in double figures for the eighth time this season, recorded five in the final quarter and made three of her four free throw attempts.

The Gators, who have had their struggles from the charity stripe this year, cashed in on their opportunities Sunday, knocking down 16 of their 23 tries. Florida’s 69.6 percent mark from the free throw line was its second-best percentage shot all season.

Vanderbilt made it a two-possession game with 33 seconds to play, but a pair of conversions from the line from sophomore Kristina Moore sealed the deal. Moore set new career highs with six free throw attempts and makes.

In what was a pivotal second quarter, Florida outscored Vanderbilt 23-15. Second quarter success is becoming the norm for Florida as its outscoring opponents 268-213 in the quarter, its best scoring margin in any quarter so far this season.

Florida’s second quarter spurt allowed it to carry a 40-34 edge into the locker room.

The Gators trailed 11-9 at the first quarter media timeout as they managed to hang tough with the Commodores who started 5-of-7 from the floor. Vanderbilt made nine of its 15 shots in the opening stanza but Florida weathered the storm thanks to nine first quarter points from Briggs.

VU then jumped out to 27-20 edge in the second but five-straight points from the Gators prompted a Commodore timeout. Florida’s run would grow to 9-0 and it would take the lead, 29-27. From there the Gators just kept building, growing their advantage to six by the first half horn. After some shooting struggles early, Florida’s offensive was crisp in the second quarter as it shot 52.9 percent in frame. Sophomore guard Emanuely de Oliveira scored six of UF’s first eight points of the period and Florida connected on three triples for the quarter.

Florida trailed by as many as seven in the first, but stayed the course with improved offensive execution. After trailing 27-20 early in the second period Florida closed the frame on a 20-7 scoring run.

Williams scored four quick points out of the gate in the third quarter and UF continued to hold the lead. Florida endured a one-of-nine shooting stretch at a point but was solid on defense as it held the Commodores to only 10 points. The Gators managed just 11 of their own but made five of their six tries from the free throw line.

Florida led 51-44 heading into the fourth.

Vanderbilt scored 10 of the final quarter’s first 14 points and a Jordyn Cambridge three-pointer cut the Gator lead to just 55-54 with 4:57 remaining. With its backs against the wall now, Florida found the next gear it needed. Smith scored on a slash and drive to the hoop and Johnson buried a pair of free throws to put the Gators back ahead by two possessions.  

Vanderbilt featured a trio of double-figure scorers paced by freshman Koi Love who scored 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the floor. Florida limited All-SEC talent Mariella Fasoula, who entered the game averaging 16.1 points and 8.2 rebounds to just nine points and five boards.

Holding their opponent below their season scoring average for the 10th time this season, Florida’s defense returned to form after Thursday’s SEC lidlifter at Mississippi State.

Florida, now .500 in league play, returns to conference action Thursday, Jan. 9 when it travels to Auburn.
Thursday, Jan. 9 | 7 p.m. ET
Florida (10-5, 1-1) at Auburn (6-6, 0-1)
Auburn Arena | Auburn, Ala.

Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement…
“Proud of our team defensively, especially rebounding. We’re the first team to outrebound Vanderbilt this year. We knew that was going to be an area where we had to limit them because they get second-chance points. Also, getting down in transition and pushing the tempo to get some easy baskets. In the first half they had 22 points in the paint, but in the second half they only had 14. That was the game and what we really focused on. I thought Kiki (Smith) did a great job of getting downhill and in the paint and we did a good job setting some screens to free her up. We were very efficient with our touches tonight. Kiki was 6 of 12 and Zada (Williams) was 5 of 8. Manu (de Oliveira) came off the bench and gives us a big two makes. I thought they were both threes, but I guess not. Lav (Briggs) has 13 straight games in double-digits. Then the free throws from Kristina (Moore), going 6 for 6 from the free throw line. That’s a great way to seal it there. I really think it was our defensive rebounding that took care of it today. Zada had a hellacious rebound at the end of the game when we really needed a stop. 10 points and 11 rebounds. That’s a great day. Zada has really done a great job of coming into her own and it has taken some time and patience from her. She’s a fifth-year senior. It’s been fun to coach her and we’re just happy to get this win at home and be 1-1 in the SEC.”
On Ari Johnson and Kiki Smith’s Play…
“I’d also like to say something about Ari. She had 10 points and 8 rebounds. She got some huge offensive rebounds for us and her free throws were all in the fourth quarter. She hit some big free throws for us. I think Ari did a great job. You look at Kiki’s stat-line with 17 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. That’s a great day. Kiki has done a great job of being a leader for our program. I just think that a lot of pieces and a lot of different people made some big plays for us today when we needed them.”
On the team’s confidence after the first quarter…
“The defense and rebounding piece that we were focusing on was if we can get stops and limit them from scoring, it doesn’t matter what type of offense we have. Sooner or later, shots are going to fall down. You have to be consistent with your defense and rebounding. I felt pretty good. We talked at halftime about the fact that you do need points on the board. You just have to trust that your offense is going to come and go sometimes. You just have to be consistent defensively and we took care of it today.”
On outrebounding Vanderbilt…
“Vanderbilt averages 14 offensive rebounds a game and had 10. They scored on three of the 10. We had 15 offensive rebounds and that’s great. SEC basketball is about battling every day and competing at the highest level. You’re trying to be your best the next possession. I think we did a good job with that. I think we had some moments where we weren’t very good and had some miscues, but I think we made the next play and were better the next possession. I’m just proud of them for having that mindset and resilience because we talk about it a lot, but it’s hard to do. Easy to talk about, especially coming off the disappointing road game we had the other day. I’m just really proud of our team for coming out and fighting and just sticking with it, even when it got close at the end.”

No. 1 Kiki Smith, Guard
On bouncing back at home…
“Our first SEC game was a learning experience. After that, we came to practice and talked about exactly what we needed to do, how we needed to work on the little things. And then today we tried to work on the little things. Like Zada [Williams] said, our huddle was strong. We were communicating probably the best we have all season. So it was just capitalizing on all the little things that we knew we needed to tighten up.”

No. 12 Zada Williams, Forward
On what allowed her to adjust after a slow first quarter ….
“I would say my mindset. Just staying steady… My teammates did a great job finding me. Just staying steady, just knowing not to rush.”

On rallying the team in the fourth quarter…
“We all did a really good job just saying, ‘We have to keep pushing, keep fighting. Worry about the next stop. Don’t worry about the missed play or giving them points to rebound.’ We really just talked, just huddled [and] focused in on each other, [saying], ‘We got this. Just keep going.”


  • With seven victories at home this season, Florida has surpassed last season’s total of six wins at the O’Connell Center.
  • Sunday’s victory snapped a streak of five-straight losses for Florida in SEC home openers. Its win was its first since it defeated Mississippi State in January of 2014.
  • Florida now has five-consecutive wins against Vanderbilt, its longest active streak against any SEC opponent. Florida’s five-game winning streak vs. Vanderbilt is its longest against the Commodores since 1996-1999.
  • Lavender Briggs’ streak of 13-straight games with 10 or more points is the longest by any Florida player since 2005. That year, during her senior season, current radio analyst Brittany Davis scored in double figures in 13-straight games.
  • Florida has now held 10 opponents below their scoring average this season. Vanderbilt entered the game averaging 73.8 points per game.
  • The Gators used a 20-7 run in the second quarter to end the first half up 40-34 and held the lead for the remainder of the contest.
  • Florida shot 66.6 percent (8-12, 3-4 3FG) from the floor in the final six minutes of the half.
  • 32 of Florida’s 68 points came in the paint.
  • The Gators have featured four double-figure scorers in six games now this season (Briggs – 19; Smith – 17; Williams – 10; Johnson – 10).
  • Emanuely de Oliveira set new season-highs with six points and four rebounds.
  • Florida improves to 9-1 when leading at the half.
  • Brylee Bartram and Vanderbilt junior guard Chelsie Hall played in high school together for three years at Seffner Christian in Tampa. 
  • Sunday marked the third of Florida’s seven nationally-televised contests and second of five at home.

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