UF guard Kiki Smith leads the way with impressive stat line to beat the Flyers
As the final minute ticked down, a measly point separated the visiting Dayton Flyers and Florida Gators.
The teams traded scores and turnovers inside the paint but only one team was allowed to come out on top. UF guard Lavender Briggs heaved a jump shot after a bullet pass from teammate Kiki Smith.
The crowd silenced as the ball rainbowed, anticipating a swish. The ball rolled around the rim and drained through to place a dagger in the hearts of Dayton and ignite Exactech Arena.
Dayton graduate forward desperately slingshotted a look from downtown with less than 10 seconds but the ball bricked off the front of the rim.
Florida walked out of the O’Dome with a three-point win.
From every fast break and drive in the paint, Smith was a war machine on Wednesday afternoon.
The Dayton Flyers (6-2) paid a visit to Gainesville, Florida to take on the returning Gators who’d just competed in four consecutive road games. Despite the last minute push, the Flyers fell short and the Gators start the home stance with a 60-57 win.
Dayton dominated the first frame of play despite a flaming start from the Gators.
The Flyers won the tip-off but UF guard Lavender Briggs finished at the rim after a sneaky turnover created by Smith. The score stood at a 4-0 Florida lead but Dayton quickly flipped the switch in the ensuing possession.
A large chunk of the first quarter saw a threatening performance from Dayton as they pulled their way back with a 12-2 run. The Gators tallied four fouls and surrendered the ball four times during a three-minute scoring drought.
A valiant effort from the Gators in the second frame brought the team back to a powerful halftime lead. The defense, mainly six-foot-three center Taliyah Wych, reclaimed the paint has theirs and forced seven turnovers by blocking and pick-pocketing the Dayton offense. Dayton found themselves on a scoring drought for three minutes.
By the end of the 14-2 run, Florida claimed a desired 10-point lead.
From then on, the Gators annihilated the Flyers except for one athlete.
Dayton guard Makira Cook built some heat during the first quarter run to bolster her stat line at the end of the game. The sophomore made daring cuts in the paint and finger-rolled her way to 12 points to end the first half. Cook finished with 20 points, two assists and three boards.
Standing at five-foot-six, Cook slithered her away around UF’s man defense to find open looks around the court. Her smooth finishes at the rim was just a chery on top of her elite performance.
Two of Cook’s teammates, guards Kyla Whitehead and Jenna Giacone, also reached double digits on the scorecard. The two combined for 26 points and four assists, but Whitehead defended her turf in the paint to reach 10 rebounds.
In the end, the last-ditch effort by Dayton in the final minutes made the game intense, but Florida planted their feet and kept arms upright to fend off the final possessions to walk into the Florida State matchup with some confidence.