Special report on the Florida Gators women’s basketball team:
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fueled by Lavender Briggs’ 18 points and 13 rebounds, the University of Florida women’s basketball team earned its first victory over a top 25 opponent on the road since 2016 as it defeated No. 13 Kentucky 70-62 Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum in front of 5,087 fans.
Florida trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half, but never quit as it shot 59 percent in the second on the way to its first victory at Kentucky since 2015.
The Gators (12-10, 3-6) trailed by 10 points at the half, but stormed back to shock the nationally-ranked Wildcats (17-4, 6-3) with 51 second half points. Briggs, notching her sixth double-double and 19th double-figure scoring game of the campaign, led the Gators while Zada Williams collected a double-double of her own with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Squaring off with a ranked opponent for the fifth time in its last six games, the battled-test Gators wouldn’t be denied as they snapped a five-game losing streak.
Kentucky led for nearly 30 minutes in the contest, but Florida’s best basketball would be played late in the moments that the mattered the most. The Gators outscored the Wildcats 27-16 in the fourth quarter, handing them just their second loss at home all season and first at Memorial Coliseum.
Briggs was clearly the tone setter for the Florida when it began to make its run as she scored all 18 of her points in the final 20 minutes of play. In the fourth alone, she tallied nine.
Freshman guard Nina Rickards, scoring 10 or more points for the third time in her last four, finished with 12 and three assists. Fellow rookie Brylee Bartram registered nine points off the bench, recording a trio of timely three-pointers.
Notching its fifth-largest comeback on the road in program history, Florida showed great resolve to nab its third conference win.
The Gators defeated a top 15 opponent on the road for the first time since Feb. 4, 2016 at Texas A&M.
For the 13th time this season, Florida outrebounded its opponent owning a decisive 45-27 edge on the glass.
Redshirt-junior guard Kiki Smith, after battling first half foul trouble, finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists.
Williams scored the Gators’ first four points as Florida made its first three field goals and led 6-2. Kentucky then scored eight unanswered to jump ahead 10-6. UK led 17-9 at quarter’s end thanks to a 6-0 run. Both teams weren’t able to find much of rhythm offensively, but Kentucky would get to the line 10 times in the frame and convert on seven attempts.
After starting the game 3-of-5, Florida made just one of its next 12 shots. The Gators were getting clean looks but there were several long-range shots that wouldn’t go down. Kentucky’s run stretched to 10-0 but a free throw from Emanuely de Oliveira snapped the run at the 6:56 mark. Florida began to play more aggressively in the second and got to the line six times in the first five minutes.
UF whittled the Wildcat lead back down to single digits by the period’s media timeout, trailing 24-15. In the midst of the team’s overall struggle to score, Williams had no such issue as she made her first three shots and accounted for seven of the team’s first 15.
UF scored six-straight to claw within five at 24-19 late, but the host Wildcats scored the final five points of the first half and possessed a 29-19 lead at the intermission.
The Gators defended effectively but their offense was slow out of the gate. Florida’s 24 percent shooting in the first half, marked its lowest first half field goal percentage of the season. The Gators assisted on all of their field goals.
Smith, the SEC’s leader in minutes played, was limited to only 14 as foul trouble sent her to the bench.
The Gators came out invigorated to open half two, scoring seven of the first nine points and slashing the lead back down to five. Kentucky scored on back-to-back trips though to stretch its advantage again but a three-pointer from Bartram drew the Gators back to within six at 35-29.
Just as it began the game, UF started the second half 3-of-5 from the floor. At the third quarter media timeout, Kentucky’s lead was just four points at 36-32.
Florida made more field goals in the first five minutes of the third quarter than it did in the entire second stanza.
UF connected on seven of its first 10 shots and its first three 3-point attempts as it mounted its comeback. Florida shrunk UK’s advantage down to one at 42-41 with under two minutes to go.
After outscoring Kentucky 24-17 in the third, what once was a double-figure deficit stood at just three heading into the fourth. Trimming the deficit to 46-43, Florida shot 61.5 percent in the frame and was three of five from distance. Briggs, after being held scoreless in the first half, erupted for nine and knocked down 4-of-6 attempts from the floor.
Momentum shifted back to Kentucky’s end when it scored the fourth quarter’s first five points and extended its advantage to eight.
Trailing 51-43 with 7:31 to play, Florida tallied five-straight points to climb back. With 5:12 remaining, Briggs drained a three-pointer to put the Gators ahead 54-53 giving them their first lead since it was 6-4. Briggs’ triple followed Bartram’s connection from deep on the possession prior.
From this point forward Florida would never trail as it outscored the Wildcats 16-9 over the final five minutes.
After going 0-for-7 from distance in the first half, the Gators made seven of their 13 three-point attempts in the second half and they all came courtesy of freshmen.
UK’s Chasity Patterson scored 25 points to lead all scorers while Jaida Roper pitched in with 15.
Sunday, Feb. 9 | 1 p.m.
Florida (12-10, 2-6) vs. Georgia (12-9, 3-5)
Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center | Gainesville, Fla.
- Florida recorded its first victory over a top 25 opponent since Feb. 4, 2016 (No.12 Texas A&M, 83-81) and its first win at a top 25 opponent since that same game.
- The Gators collected their first victory in Lexington since Jan. 15, 2015.
- Florida took on an AP Top 25 opponent for the fifth time in six games.
- The Gators and Wildcats met for the second time in 21 days.
- Through 9 conference games, Florida has played six ranked teams and six of the top seven in the SEC standings.
- Kentucky played without leading scorer Rhyne Howard.
- Williams nabbed her fourth double-double and fifth of her career.
- Briggs collected her team-best sixth double-double.
- Briggs has scored 10 or more points in 19 of her 21 games played.
- Florida’s 14-point comeback was its largest since overcame the deficit against Missouri last season.
- UF’s 51 second half points were its second-most in a game all season.
Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Overall thoughts on the win…
“In the second half we were 7-of-11 from three, Lav had 18 and Kiki just played so aggressively. I could go down right down the list. We played so aggressively and together as a team, most importantly. We were plus 18 on the glass and held them to 38 percent shooting and 17 percent shooting from three. That’s just fire and drive and passion for each other. Our team just got it done for each other. We outscored them 51-33 in the second half. I thought we did a great job of handling their pressure with poise and strength. That was a lot of fun, I’m so proud of our kids they are so so deserved”
On the team’s fight in the second half…
“We kept talking about fighting. Just fight every possession. Even when we were down, just keep fighting. Keep your eyes on each other and the rim, not the scoreboard. That’s what we did and I’m so proud of our kids for their effort. After the last five games against such tough opponents and another one tonight, I learned a lot about our group. A great team win, with 24 turnovers and you still win by eight, that’s just toughness.”