Fourth Quarter Surge Boosts Gators Past Panthers

Florida women’s basketball used an 18-7 effort in the fourth quarter to pull away from Prairie View A&M on Wednesday evening, 68-53, inside Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The Gators (7-1, 0-0 SEC) had their work cut out for them defensively against a team that leads the Southwestern Athletic Conference in three-pointers made per game. Rising to the occasion, UF held the Panthers (3-4, 0-0 SWAC) to just 16-of-59 (27.1%) shooting and 8-of-29 (27.6%) from three-point range.

Another area that saw the Gators take control was on the glass, ending with a dominant 52-28 advantage in rebounding. Sophomore Jeriah Warren led the way with a career-best 15 rebounds, 10 of which came in the first half, while Tatyana Wyche tallied a career-best nine of her own.

On the offensive end, KK Deans and Nina Rickards paced the Gators, each registering 16 points. Alberte Rimdal was the third Gator in double-figures, ending with 14, as the team shot 25-of-58 (43.1%) from the field and 7-of-24 (29.2%) from deep. The Orange & Blue finished the night with a 26-10 advantage in points in the paint.

Holding just a four-point lead with 10 minutes to play, the Gators needed an offensive kickstart. Rickards provided just what Florida needed, scoring seven-consecutive points to start the quarter and give UF a 57-46 lead with 6:54 left in the game. Florida’s defensive intensity was elevated in the fourth, holding the Panthers to just 1-of-6 shooting through the first five minutes, including a momentum-shifting block from Taliyah Wyche, to take a 59-49 lead into the media timeout. That would be as close as Prairie View A&M would get, with the Orange & Blue pulling away for the 68-53 victory.

The Gators were in control early with Rimdal finding Rickards in the corner for a triple on the opening possession and then Deans finding the bottom of the net on a long range shot two possessions later. Dean’s jumper served as a spark for the beginning of a 10-0 run, that was capped-off by a Rimdal three, that gave Florida a 13-4 lead with 6:20 remaining in the period.

After a TaMiracle Taylor three at the 5:54 mark, the Gators again responded with an 11-0 run to help open-up a 24-7 lead. Prairie View, who leads the SWAC in threes made per game, used three-consecutive triples to shrink their gap 24-16 and eight is where UF’s lead would remain after the opening frame, 26-18. The Orange & Blue ended the first quarter shooting an impressive 4-of-6 (66.7%) from long range.

Deans continued to give Florida the upper-hand into the second quarter, unloading two deep threes within 22 seconds of each other to again put the Gators on top, 34-18, with 8:20 on the clock. The Panthers managed to hold UF scoreless over a period of 4:20 to trim the lead down to 35-24, but Warren found Wyche along the baseline for a jumper to put an end to the drought with just over two minutes remaining in the quarter. Florida ended the half with a 40-27 advantage thanks to a pair of free throws from Rimdal with seven seconds left.

With 20 minutes of play concluded, the Gators shot 15-of-31 (48.4%) from the floor, led by Deans’ 10 points. In just 12 minutes of action in the first half, Warren matched her career-high in rebounds, pulling down 10 to lead all athletes.

The Panthers remained within striking distance to start the third quarter, even pulling back within three points at 44-43 following a 14-0 run with 4:17 left in the third. Florida took a 50-46 lead into the final period.

Up Next
The Gators will hit the road and head north for a matchup with Dayton on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 1 p.m. ET. Sunday’s game will be streamed live on ESPN+.

Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On Prairie View’s third quarter offense…
“In that four-minute stretch she (Kennedy Paul) hit five threes, I think. We didn’t make an adjustment as quickly as we needed to. I think our team has great ownership, but we were in our zone and we just had a better awareness of where she was after that little spurt. I’d say that was probably the blip in the game, but other than that we really haven’t had that happen to us in quite a few games. It’s something to learn from and take to the next competition.”

On how the Gators pulled-themselves out of the third-quarter slump…
“Get Nina Rickards the ball and get her to the basket. Nina’s a senior, she’s played a lot of minutes on that floor and she needs to be comfortable making plays in big-time moments. We’re comfortable with her in those situations. I thought that KK did a great job of controlling the tempo late in the game and I though that Berte (Alberte Rimdal) had some very timely drives and attacks to the rim. A lot of people think about her, they think that she’s a three-point shooter, no, she’s a heck of a basketball player and I thought that was the difference in the game. Our rebounding was very good down the stretch as well.”

On Jeriah Warren’s career-night…
“For Jeriah to have 15 rebounds coming off of a 10-rebound game last game, that was pretty awesome. It’s impressive for a guard. She’s really bought into her role and she’s excelling. I got after her a little bit in terms of how she’s an electric guard, she’s really worked on her game and I wanted to see her get down hill a little bit more, get to the basket, and she did that as well. Those five fouls, it is what is, but I liked her aggressiveness as well.”

Senior Guard Nina Rickards
On the confidence her head coach has in her…
“I think that’s what every player looks for from their head coach. It just pushes me and gives me confidence knowing that Kelly has my back and she’s 10-toes down behind me and my teammates.”

On what changed after the fast start…
“I’m going to hold myself accountable. We emphasize having a great start because we usually start off slow, so we saw we had an amazing start and, I guess, the energy and intensity went down once the other team started scoring and it just hit us for a second. Then we regrouped, I gathered, I started talking more and that’s why we finished out the way we did. We picked it up on defense. I think it’s just moments where we weren’t connected and talking together, especially myself, but we found a way to make it happen and that’s all that matters.”

– With Wednesday’s victory, the Gators now hold a 3-0 series lead over Prairie View A&M. It was also the largest victory in the series.
– Florida extended their nonconference home win streak to 20 games, the third-longest in program history.
– Jeriah Warren pulled-down a career-best 15 rebounds and Tatyana Wyche ended with a career-best nine.
– Warren’s 10 rebounds in the first half marked the first time since Nov. 25, 2020 that a Gator recorded 10 in the first half. The last to do it was Kiara Smith against Grambling State on the above date.
– Under head coach Kelly Rae Finley, UF moved to 18-0 when holding opponents to under 60 points.
– The Gators now own 795 wins as a program, just five away from becoming the 13th SEC school to win 800.
– KK Deans now boasts 894 career points, closing in on her 1000th.

– #GoGators –

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