Career Afternoon from Rickards Helps Gators Defeat Flyers

 Nina Rickards came up big for the Gators when her team needed her, using a career-best 24 points to help give Florida their first true-road win of the season over Dayton, 69-65.
Rickards’ 24 points led all scorers in the game, while Leilani Correa (15) and Alberte Rimdal (14) also crossed the double-figures threshold for the Orange & Blue. For the game, Florida (8-1, 0-0 SEC) shot 24-of-55 (43.6%) from the floor. Rimdal played an important role behind the arc, hitting 3-of-4 from deep for UF.
The Gators defense forced the Flyers (0-8, 0-0 Atlantic 10) into 18 turnovers, resulting in 18 points off of turnovers for the visitors. Florida held Dayton to 23-of-59 (39%) shooting from the floor and 6-of-16 (37.5%) from three-point range.
Mariah Perez led the Dayton offensive effort with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Trailing by one entering the fourth quarter, the Gators needed to dig deep to secure their first true-road victory. In a defensive battle, Rickards dropped the first six points of the period for the Orange & Blue to give the Gators a 56-53 lead at the 5:30 mark. On the defensive end, KK Deans’ play was critical, drawing charges on back-to-back possessions to keep the Flyers at arms-length.
Holding a 58-55 lead, Rimdal knocked-down her third triple of the game to open-up a six-point lead, 61-55, with 3:57 to play. The Flyers responded in kind on the next possession, draining a three of their own to make it a three-point game. Both teams continued to exchange punches until Destin Bohanon hit her second-straight three to give the Flyers the edge with just 1:22 remaining. Faith Dut, composed in the paint, sank a layup to push the Gators back on top with 56 seconds left.
Deans, on the next possession, connected on two free throws to silence the crowd and help put the finishing touches on a 69-65 Florida victory.
On the opening possession of the game, the UF offense clicked perfectly with Rimdal finding Deans on the left wing for a triple to set the offensive tone. The Gators found the bottom of the net on their first three possessions to claim an 8-2 lead less than two minutes into the game. The Flyers pulled back within one, but back-to-back buckets by Rickards helped give the Gators some breathing room with 6:10 on the clock.
The lead hovered at four for the Orange & Blue until Correa, off the bench, picked Sydney Freeman’s pocket at the 3:03 mark, sparking a 6-0 spurt that gave the Gators a 21-11 advantage with under a minute remaining. Florida would take a 21-13 lead into the second quarter, boosted by forcing seven turnovers in the opening frame.
Rickards called her own number to start the second quarter, knocking down the first two field goals for the Orange & Blue to help UF regain a 26-15 advantage, which in turn forced a Dayton timeout with 8:05 left in the half. Another scoop and score from Correa again gave the Gators a 13-point lead, but the Flyers wouldn’t disappear, knocking down back-to-back threes to shorten the UF lead to 30-23.
Rimdal put a stop to the Dayton 8-1 run with a pull-up triple at the top of the key before Rickards converted on a fast break attempt following a Flyer turnover, making it 37-25 in favor of UF with 1:39 left. Dayton ended the half on a 7-2 run, but Correa beat the buzzer on a free throw line jumper, to make it 39-32 Gators heading into the break. Correa and Rickards led the Gators through 20 minutes with 11 and 10 points, respectively. As a team, UF ended the half shooting 15-of-28 (53.6%) from the field and forced 11 turnovers defensively.
The Flyers used a quick 5-2 opening to the second half to make it just a four-point game, 41-37, with 8:28 on the clock. Dayton’s defense turned-up a notch, holding the Gators scoreless for over four minutes, helping the home squad take a 45-42 lead. It was again Rickards to the rescue, draining a corner three to even the game at 45.
Needing a big play, Dut answered the call with a tough finish in the lane, giving the Gators the lead once again at 47-45. A back-and-forth ending to the frame set the stage for a decisive final 10 minutes with Dayton leading, 51-50.   
Up Next
The Gators return home on Tuesday, Dec. 6, to matchup with Presbyterian at 6 p.m. ET in Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+.
Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On her thoughts about Sunday’s game in a hostile environment…
“I thought this was a tremendous environment today, the best crowd we’ve played in front of. Their fans were into it and I’m proud of how we respond in adverse situations. There’s a lot of teams that would fold under the pressure and the belief never wavered. It hasn’t all season and that’s a good thing to see.”
– The Gators now lead the series history with Dayton, 4-0, and move to 2-0 in Dayton, Ohio.
– Nina Rickards’ 24 points marked a career-best for the senior.
– Rickards also secured her third-career, and first of the 2022-23 season, double-double with 11 rebounds.
– Freshman Myka Perry made her collegiate debut, playing two minutes and pulling down a defensive rebound.
– As a program, Florida is now just four wins away from 800, holding 796.