Gators Set Course for Columbia

Kicking off a mini two-game road swing, the University of Florida women’s basketball team returns to game action Sunday, Feb. 16 when it travels to Missouri to take on the Tigers in Columbia. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. ET from Mizzou Arena as the Gators and Tigers square off for the 10th time.

Date:Sunday, Feb. 16
Time:3 p.m. ET
Matchup:Florida (13-11, 4-7) vs. Missouri (6-18, 3-8)
Location:Mizzou Arena | Columbia, Mo.
Live Stream:SEC Network+ with Ben Arnet & Jarrett Sutton
Live Stats: Here
Radio:WRUF ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM  with Kyle Crooks & Brittany Davis
Game Notes:Florida | Missouri 

Last time out, Florida earned its fourth conference victory of the 2019-20 campaign when it held off Ole Miss 74-72. Following its second and final “bye” week of the season, Florida came out energized and focused and quickly built a double-digit edge. Racing out to a 27-14 first quarter lead, Florida looked to be in control but the Rebels charged back with streaky long-range shooting. What once was an 18-point advantage became a four-point deficit late in the fourth quarter. UF kept its composure in crunch time though as evidenced by the play of Lavender Briggs, who converted the eventual game-winning free throws with 20 seconds remaining and a game-deciding steal on the ensuing possession.
The rookie standout tied her career high with 23 points to go with eight rebounds and Briggs’ game-winning conversions from the line were two of her career-best 11 made free throws on the night. The six-foot-one guard tied the SEC high for free throws made in a game this season. Kiki Smith added 12 and Kristina Moore, finishing in double figures for the first time since Jan. 9, tallied 10 for Florida (13-11, 4-7).
The Gators hadn’t won a game in which they trailed with under five minutes remaining (0-11) but made the winning plays down the stretch to reverse the trend vs. Ole Miss.
With just five games remaining, each game looms large as tournament seeding remains for the most part up for grabs up and down the standings. The Gators (4-7) are in a three-way tie for 8th place with Alabama and Georgia.
Briggs paces the Gators in scoring at 14.2 points per game and is tied for the league high among freshmen. With 326 points, Briggs ranks 15th in program history in freshmen scoring and her points per game average through her first 23 games played is the highest by a Gator freshman since 1992 when Merlakia Jones averaged 14.9. The SEC’s leader in minutes played has led Florida in scoring in 12 games this season.
Freshmen forward Faith Dut has 17 points in the last two games including a new career-high nine on Thursday. The Canadian dropped in a smooth jump hook when the Gators were in dire need of a basket to tie the game at 70-70. Her role continues to expand as the season progresses.
Over her last four games redshirt-senior Zada Williams is 19-of-25 from the floor. She’s averaging 11.3 points and 8.9 rebounds during the span, posting two double-doubles and continuing to provide a much needed veteran presence on the court for the young Gators. Scoring at an efficient rate is nothing new for the Lake Wales native as she is a career .540 shooter but this season she’s ramped things up a notch, posting a team-best .626 mark.
Thursday marked Florida’s eighth win at home this season, its most in four years. In away games Florida’s record sits at 4-4 a stark improvement last season when it won just once on the road.
Florida and Missouri have met just nine times over the years, the fewest amount of games the Gators have played against any SEC foe; the Tigers joined the league in 2012. Missouri owns an 8-1 advantage in the series and is 5-0 in matchups played at Mizzou Arena.
Florida and Mizzou met twice a season ago, and one contest was much more memorable than the other for the Gators. On Jan. 13 of last season, Florida erased a 14-point deficit to rally back and stun MU, 58-56 in Gainesville. It was the Gators’ first conference win and the 10th-largest comeback in program history.
The Gators last played in Columbia on Feb. 5, 2018. In a game that featured 10 lead changes and six tied scores, Florida matched No. 15 Missouri possession-for-possession and even had the ball with a chance to win it but a three-pointer at the buzzer fell short in a 66-64 loss.
Missouri, which has qualified for four-consecutive NCAA Tournaments, enters the matchup with a 6-18 record which includes a 3-8 mark in SEC play. The Tigers, who have dropped four of their last five, have played the nation’s third-toughest schedule as of Feb. 13. Three Tigers average double figures on the year, including two freshmen Aijha Blackwell (13.7) and Hayley Frank (11.8). The St. Louis native, Blackwell, leads the club in scoring, rebounding and assists. 2019-20 Preseason All-SEC First Team selection Amber Smith averages 12.3 per contest. Missouri is one of the best shooting teams in the SEC as it averages 7.5 three-pointers per game (3rd in SEC), shoots .345 collectively from three-point range (4th in SEC) and knocks down 74 percent of its free throws (T-1st in SEC).
Mizzou is under the direction of 10th-year head coach Robin Pingeton. Pingeton has over 150 wins at three different programs as she also led Illinois State and St. Ambrose. The Tigers are one of just 14 Power 5 programs with at least 22 wins and an NCAA Tournament appearance in each of the last four seasons.
Some of the league’s best young talent will be on display as Briggs (14.2) and Blackwell (13.7) are two of the league’s top freshmen scorers along with Missouri’s Hayley Frank (10.8). The Gators lead the SEC in games played by underclassmen (153) and are third in games started (71). True freshmen and sophomores account for 63 percent of the Gators’ offense.
Following  Sunday’s showdown in the Show Me State, UF remains on the road Thursday, Feb. 20 when it heads to Alabama to take on the Tide.

  • With 13 wins and four SEC victories, UF has already surpassed its win total from each of the last two seasons.
  • UF scored 27 points in the opening quarter vs. Ole Miss (9-of-14 shooting), notching its second-highest point total in a period all season. Briggs had 10 in the frame.
  • UF has outrebounded its opponent in 14 games and is 12-2 when doing so.
  • Of Florida’s 11 losses those teams have combined for a 191-74 record (.721 winning percentage) as of Feb. 14.
  • Kiki Smith has increased her scoring average by 72 percent from 2018-19 to now (12.2) and leads the team with 95 free throw attempts.
  • Freshman guard Nina Rickards has scored 10 or more points in three of the last six games and her .385 three-point field goal percentage leads the team in SEC play.
  • Brylee Bartram has knocked down multiple three-pointers in 10 games this season.
  • With an average team height of just 5’10”, Florida is undersized especially playing in the rugged SEC. Despite not having the tallest players on the court, Florida’s rebounding has been strong as it ranks in the top half of the league in rebounding. 73 percent of Florida’s rebounds come from the guard position.
  • Over the last 20 years, a Florida freshman has led the team in scoring for the season just once when Bernice Mosby finished at 11.9 points per game. Only six times in that span has a freshman averaged double figures and only once has a freshman averaged 13 or more points for the season (Brooks, 13.7/2005-06). Briggs currently leads the squad at 14.2 per contest.

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