Kyle’s Career Night Helps Gators Top Aggies

Junior Ra Shaya Kyle pulled down a career-best 17 rebounds to go along with 13 points in a 61-54 victory over Texas A&M on Thursday evening inside Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Kyle, who recorded her fifth double-double of the year, was joined by KK Deans (12) and Nina Rickards in double-figures, as the Gators (14-8, 3-6 SEC) shot 23-of-60 (38.3%) from the field and 1-of-8 from three-point range.
A dominant effort in the paint played a key role in Florida’s victory over the Aggies (6-14, 1-9 SEC), outscoring Texas A&M 40-18 down low. The Gators also controlled the glass, outrebounding their Southeastern Conference foe 42-35, led by Kyle’s 17 and Rickards’ six.
Defensively, the Orange & Blue forced 21 turnovers that led to seven steals, three of which came from Deans. The Aggies shot just 18-of-53 (34.0%) from the floor and 6-of-18 (33.3%) from deep, with three coming in the fourth quarter.
Texas A&M was led by Janiah Barker with 15 points and six rebounds.
It was a slow start offensively for both squads, with neither team finding the basket until Faith Dut converted a wide-open layup off of a dime from Deans with 7:28 on the clock. The Aggies took a 9-4 lead with 4:26 remaining in the quarter, but a 6-0 spurt that was capped-off by an aggressive drive from Deans put the Gators back in front, 10-9, just over a minute later. Both teams battled to a 14-14 stalemate late in the frame before a last-second put-back from Tatyana Wyche gave UF a 16-14 advantage heading into the second period.
Deans got the Gators’ engine going in the second quarter, using back-to-back buckets to make it 22-17 in favor of the Orange & Blue at the 7:51 mark. Texas A&M responded with five-straight points of their own to knot the game at 22 just 1:30 later. With the scoreboard showing 26-all, Florida ended the half with the final four points to take a 30-26 lead at halftime.
The Gators made sure to feed the post in the first half, holding a 24-10 advantage in points in the paint while Kyle grabbed 10 boards in the first 20 minutes to go along with seven points.
Florida continued to push the ball to the post, getting consecutive buckets from Dut and Kyle to start the third quarter and force an Aggie timeout behind a 34-26 edge. The Gators held Texas A&M without a field goal for the final 7:11 of the quarter, helping them to take a 10-point lead, 44-34, into the last 10 minutes of play. The Aggies were held to just 1-of-9 (11.1%) shooting from the floor in the third period.
Texas A&M managed to pull back within five with 2:55 remaining in the game thanks to six-unanswered from Barker, before closing the gap to four at the 1:52 mark following a triple from Kay Kay Green. Jordyn Merritt would convert a pair at the line, along with two from Rickards to push Florida’s lead to 57-51, but the Aggies again responded with a straight-on three to make it just a three-point game with 17.7 seconds remaining.
Deans would help solidify the win with two free throws before Alberte Rimdal sealed-the-deal with a steal in the closing seconds, holding off the Aggies for the 61-54 victory.
Up Next
Florida will hit the road on Sunday, Feb. 5, to Oxford, Miss., where they’ll meet Ole Miss for a 4 p.m. ET matchup with the Rebels. The game will air live on ESPNU.
Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On Ra Shaya Kyle’s career-effort…
“What I like to talk about more so is her mindset. I was really impressed tonight, she can do that. She can do that every night. It doesn’t matter how many minutes she plays, that’s what she should expect to do and that’s what our team should grow to expect of her, but I think that her mindset was different tonight. I liked her approach to the game. I thought her demeanor was different and I thought that it had an incredible impact on our team and how we carried ourselves. I think that Shay has a big voice and when she uses that voice to empower people and to lift people up and to pour belief into people, the Florida Gators become a better basketball team. I thought she did that at a level she hasn’t done that at just yet this season.” 
On recognizing National Girls and Women in Sports Day…
“I think the opportunity that we have to play sports is tremendous. I was talking with one of our student athletes today, and the game is a vessel to which to learn a lot of the greatest lessens that you could learn in life if you chose to use it that way. That’s the way that our program chooses to look at the game and the opportunity that we have. We’re really grateful every day for the opportunity to be able to play. We recognize that there was a time when that wasn’t the case. I think that we’re competitors and we want to compete and we learn tremendous skills like communication, mindset, resiliency, adaptation, how to be a good teammate and how to be a tremendous asset to a team as a professional in the workplace. Whether you want to play professional basketball, whether you want to be a professional in any other area, those are all skills that you need to have. The University of Florida has provided us a great opportunity to be able to play a game that teaches us so much. I think our team understands that, and I think that we have an appreciation for that.” 
Junior Center Ra Shaya Kyle
On the emphasis on feeding the post…
“We saw we could attack the o-boards and defensive boards, and also just going out and being productive on both ends of the floor while executing on the offensive end. Also, when the ball went in, if there was a double-team we just looked for the open people. We shared the ball today and it showed in our favor.”
On what coach Finley said to the team in the huddle at the end of the game…
“First off, she told us to change our demeanor, and then she told me to get on them, so I did. I told them we needed to play how we were playing in the first half and just get back to who we are because we know how we can play and knew we could finish that game.”
– Florida picks-up their fourth victory all-time against the Aggies, with TAMU leading 11-4.
– The Gators have now won three-straight against Texas A&M.
– Thursday marked Florida’s first home win over Texas A&M since Feb. 4, 2016, when they won 83-81 in Gainesville.
– With the victory, the Orange & Blue finish the regular season 4-0 against the state of Texas.
– Under Kelly Rae Finley, the Gators now move to 23-0 when holding opponents to 60 points or less.
– Kyle recorded her fifth double-double of the season and the seventh of her career.
– Kyle’s 17 rebounds marked not only a career-best, but marks the most by a Gator since Nina Rickards tallied 17 against Tarleton State on Dec. 14, 2020.
– Florida has now scored 40 or more points in the paint in six games this season, holding a 5-1 mark during those matchups.