Gators Travel to Mississippi State for SEC Opener

After posting a 9-4 record during its non-conference slate, the University of Florida women’s basketball team shifts its focus to SEC play and kicks off its conference quest Thursday, Dec. 2 when it travels Starkville, Miss. to take on No. 15 Mississippi State. Tipoff from Humphrey Coliseum is slated for 8:10 p.m. ET as the Gators and Bulldogs meet for the 50th time.

SEC Network is tipping off Southeastern Conference play in style, with SEC Women’s Basketball Whiparound taking center stage in primetime on Thursday, Jan 2. All 14 squads will take to the hardcourt on SEC Network and SEC Network+ Thursday with tip times staggered through the evening. Host Alyssa Lang and analysts Andy Landers and Steffi Sorensen will be live in studio starting at 7 p.m. ET to breakdown the action on SEC Network and provide live look-ins to every game in the whiparound window. Each matchup can be watched in its entirety on SECNetwork+ via the ESPN App on connected devices.

Date:Thursday, Jan. 2
Time:8:10 p.m. ET
Matchup:Florida (9-4) vs. No. 15 Mississippi State (12-2)
Location:Starkville, Miss. | Humphrey Coliseum
TV:SECNetwork+ with Paul Sunderland & Christy Thomaskutty
Live Stats: Here
Radio:WRUF ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM  with Kyle Crooks & Brittany Davis
Game Notes:Florida | Mississippi State

UF passed its final non-conference test this Sunday when it posted a 55-50 victory over Davidson at the O’Connell Center. The Gators led for over 34 minutes in the contest and held on to nab their sixth victory at home this season despite a late rally from the Wildcats. Sophomore Ariel Johnson enjoyed a career day, posting a personal-best 16 points off the bench. Kiki Smith (14) and Lavender Briggs (13) also registered double-figure points.
For the first-year guard Briggs, it was her 11th-consecutive game scoring 10 or more points. Briggs’ streak is the longest such streak by any Florida player since the 2006-07 season. Briggs continues to lead all SEC freshman in scoring (13.8) and paces the Gators with four double-doubles already this season.
After another impressive defense effort against Davidson, Florida finished the non-conference season allowing just 57.6 points per game, its lowest since the 2000-01 campaign.
The Gators have held nine of their last 11 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.
Redshirt-senior Zada Williams, who hauled in 15 rebounds against Davidson, averages 8.3 per game to pace Florida. Williams, who has grabbed 15 or more rebounds in a game twice already this season, has increased her rebounds per game average by 73 percent compared to last season’s mark of 4.8.
Florida’s nine non-conference victories were its most since the 2016-17 season.

The Gators hold a 25-24 edge in the all time series which dates back to 1977. Mississippi State has claimed the last six meetings after Florida posted nine-straight wins from 2009-14. UF’s last victory in Starkville came back on Jan. 10, 2013. 
Perennial power No. 15 Mississippi State enters the matchup sporting a 12-2 record and closed its non-conference slate with four-straight wins after falling at home to West Virginia in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Dec. 8. Its other loss came against Stanford in the Greater Victoria Invitational on Nov. 30. The Bulldogs rank top 10 nationally in scoring offense (84.2), scoring margin (26.9), turnover margin (8.7), free throws attempted and blocked shots. Mississippi State has scored over 100 points twice this season including its league-high 124 vs. Murray State. MSU, picked to finish third in the SEC by both the media and the coaches, has won back-to-back SEC titles. MSU returns seven letterwinners and three starters from last season’s team which finished 33-3 and 15-1 in league play.
The Bulldogs notched their first-ever SEC Tournament Championship a season ago. Chloe Bibby, who missed a large portion of last season due to a knee injury, Jordan Danberry and Andra Espionza-Hunter are all back for the Bulldogs this season. Six-foot-five center Jessika Carter leads the team in scoring (13.8) and rebounding (10.9). Danberry (13.1) and first-year forward Rickea Jackson (12.3) also average double figures. Eighth-year head coach Vic Schaefer, the reigning SEC and ESPNW Coach of the Year, leads the Bulldogs. Schaefer has led MSU to six-straight postseasons including consecutive appearances in the National Championship in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Following Thursday’s matchup, Florida returns home to host its 2019-20 SEC home opener Sunday, Jan. 5 against Vanderbilt. The matchup will air nationally on ESPNU and will tip at Noon ET. For ticket information, click here

  • The Gators open their conference season on the road for the third-straight season.
  • Florida is 19-22 all time in SEC lidlifters and has dropped five straight. The Gators are 7-13 in SEC openers played on the road.
  • Through 13 games last season UF was just 4-9. Through 13 games this season UF sits at 9-4 and has already surpassed last season’s win total of eight. 
  • Lavender Briggs has scored 10 or more points in 11 of her first 12 games to start her career, becoming the first Gator to accomplish this feat through records dating back to the 1986-87 season.
  • Briggs’ 13.8 points per game average is the highest by a UF rookie through their first 11 career games since 2002.
  • In March of 2016, Newbauer led his Belmont Bruins into Humphrey Coliseum for an NCAA Tournament First Round game vs. fourth-seeded Michigan State.
  • MSU will be the third AP Top 25 opponent Florida has faced this season.
  • The Gators are 4-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points this season. Last season they were 4-5 in such contests.
  • The Gators are outscoring their opponents 233-170 in the second quarter, their best scoring margin in any quarter so far this season. Florida has won 11 of its 13 second quarters this season.
  • UF has outrebounded its opponent in nine games and is 8-1 when doing so. Its +6.7 rebound margin is sixth in the SEC.

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