Smith and Briggs combine for 39 points to lead the way for Florida

Photo by Brian Fox | ChompTalk

After a 101-56 exhibition victory over Flagler College, the Florida Gators have officially begun the 2021-22 regular season with a win over Georgia State.

Although a few kinks in the system were found, UF was able to overcome to outrebound, score, and steal the inaugural 2021 game at the O’Dome. 

The matchup was even in the first quarter as both teams went 5-13 from the floor but Georgia State notched two extra free throws to claim a 14-12 lead. But a huddle during intermission sparked the Florida defense to shape up in the paint to outplay the Panthers after the first frame. 

The second quarter was dominated by Florida who conducted a 25-13 run to gain a powerful lead, which was maintained through the rest of the game. The Gators led by 20 in the third quarter and the final result was being foreshadowed. 

Georgia State transitioned to a full-court press in the fourth quarter when the score was only separated by a 12 point Gator lead. The pressure was fruitless and the Gators were able to maintain the score separation and coast to a win.

Florida’s first regular season win was an offensive highlight reel, especially from graduate student Kiki Smith who racked up 23 points while shooting 7-12 from the floor. The guard was able to account for six rebounds and four assists as well 

Junior guard Lavender Briggs returned to the team in the offseason after briefly entering the transfer portal. Briggs found her comfort with the team and in the paint to gather 16 points on the day.

Freshman Alberte Rimdal earned a spot in the Gators starting five but failed to match her success in the exhibition against Flagler College. The Denmark native mustered 2 points off her only successful shot from the field. 

Interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley believes the team has found their roots to grow from.

“I think if you ask any of the women on our team, they would tell you that we’re working on our consistency, Finley said. “And that goes from day-in to day-out, to offense to defense. We’ve had some lapses today, but that’s why it’s early in the season. Very pleased with our first game of the year.” 

The team seems to have found some kind of identity in the offensive side of the game. UF worked the hardwood through Briggs and Smith while other teammates like junior guard Nina Rickards, who played off the bench, shot a perfect 2-2 from downtown.

The Gators will take a few days to practice and prepare for the preseason WNIT classic against teams like Townson, North Carolina State and Wofford. The tip-off versus Towson is sets for Nov. 12 at 4:30 p.m. from Raleigh, North Carolina.

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