Despite head coach Cameron Newbauer being stuck in Gainesville due to the SEC’s health and safety protocols, the Gators were in good hands under the guidance of associate head coach Kelly Rae Finley. Florida traveled to Oxford, Mississippi and earned a hard-fought, 78-68 victory over the Rebels on Sunday.
Florida point guard Kiki Smith set a career high on the road by scoring 25 points on 8-15 from the floor. Sophomores Lavender Briggs (16) and Nina Rickards (10) were the other two Gators in double digits.
Both teams entered with a week off and the first quarter played sloppy as a result. Florida trailed at the first media timeout 6-4 but were able to make an 8-2 run and close the opening period with a 13-10 advantage.
The second quarter was played at a much faster pace as the two teams combined for 47 points. The Rebels took a 37-33 lead into the break largely due to outrebounding UF, 20-15 (11-3 in the second).
The Gators came out of the intermission charged up, scoring the first ten points of the third, eight by Smith. Once Florida grabbed the lead, they refused to let go. Ole Miss tied it at 45 midway through the third, but the Gators began to pull away. The UF lead swelled to as many as 15 with 3:35 to play after a Briggs layup.
For the game, Florida shot 48% and made 8-16 from the three-point line. Additionally, the Gators made 16-19 from the charity stripe, good for 84%. Florida also edged Ole Miss on the glass, 32-30.
Rickards contributed a team high nine rebounds while freshman Jordyn Merritt added seven points off the bench.
Finley made her collegiate head coaching debut in the win.
The Gators are now 9-6 on the season and 2-5 in SEC play. Florida is scheduled to face Missouri on Thursday with a 6:00 PM tip.