Photo by Kristen Oliff /

The Florida women’s basketball team defeated Valdosta State 84-38 in the team’s final warm-up before the regular season begins.

Here are a few of my quick observations from tonight’s contest:

Point Guard Play:

Junior Kiki Smith is the unquestioned leader of this team. Smith possesses all the tools necessary to succeed in the type of offense that head coach Cameron Newbauer wants to run.

On Wednesday, she showcased her versatility as she led the team in scoring with 20 points and also collected 4 rebounds to go along with five assists.

Sophomore Ariel Johnson started alongside Smith, but also saw extended minutes at the point.

Johnson recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. More importantly, the offense didn’t appear to lose anything with Smith sitting on the bench.

Johnson also played aggressively on the defensive end, which resulted in her coming away with five steals.

Depth in the frontcourt:

For the first time since Newbauer took over, the Gators have several options in the frontcourt.

Zada Williams and Paige Robinson (DNP – Coach’s Decision) were the only true forwards on the team a year ago. This season, Texas A&M transfer Emer Nichols and freshman Faith Dut enter the equation.

I particularly enjoyed watching when Newbauer played two bigs (Williams and Nichols, or Nichols and Dut) at the same time. It didn’t seem to hurt the spacing along the perimeter and we also saw Nichols’ ability to pass it inside for an easy basket.

Williams finished with 13 points and 6 boards while Nichols added 10 and 7 respectively. Dut contributed 7 points and 5 rebounds.

The Freshmen:

Florida had a highly regarded class join the mix this season. We’ve already highlighted Dut’s performance, but all four newcomers made appearances in the game.

Lavender Briggs got the start and scored nine points, including going 4-4 from the free throw line.

Nina Rickards was one of the first players off the bench and added 7 points on 3-8 shooting. Rickards also pulled down 6 rebounds.

Brylee Bartram struggled to find her shot, going 0-6 in 21 minutes of play.

Kristina Moore:

After missing the final 11 games of the season last year, it was important to see Moore on the court.

Moore started for the Gators and finished with 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.

The Sydney, Australia native also throws discus for the UF Track and Field team.

New approach?

The first two seasons under Newbauer came with the slogan, “chuck it from the cheap seats,” indicating that they were a shoot first team.

On Wednesday, Florida attacked the basket early and often. The Gators attempted 67 shots on the night and less than half of those (29) were from behind the three point line.

Overall, Florida scored 40 points in the paint and also attempted 33 shots from the charity stripe.

Injury Note:

Florida will be without redshirt junior guard Danielle Rainey for the season. The Gators announced earlier on Wednesday that Rainey tore her ACL in a scrimmage last week.

Emanuely de Oliveira also didn’t play as she is recovering from off-season surgery. She is expected to return in December.

Quick stats (Florida):

  • FG%: 42
  • 3FG%: 17
  • FT%: 70
  • TO: 10
  • REB+/-: +9
  • Bench Points: 24

Starting Five:

  • Smith
  • Johnson
  • Briggs
  • Moore
  • Williams

What’s next:

Florida will open the 2019-20 season with an away contest against Grambling State. The Tigers went 16-16 last season and faced two SEC teams in non-conference play (Auburn – L 48-97, and Alabama – L 55-73).

The game is scheduled to tipoff at 7:00 on November 5.