Florida defense dominates top-scorer in the nation to boost win streak
Swipe after swipe, Kiki Smith dove and snagged the rock away from the Murray State offense to create copious amounts of turnovers. The aggressiveness from the graduate student had the Racers dead in its tracks at the half-court and it led to a stout double-digit victory for Florida.
Despite an even shooting matchup, with both teams shooting around 35-37%, Florida was ruled the victor after four quarters and a 67-51 final score. Murray State’s score is a season-low for the Racer offense since the 66-75 loss to Samford on Dec. 4. The Racers usually put around 74 points a game.
Head coach Kelly Rae Finely spoke highly of the team’s performance in the post-game.
“Overall, I’m just really impressed with the team’s fight and toughness,” Finley said. “I think when the ball doesn’t always drop your way, those are games that could be hard mentally, and I was really impressed with our effort today.”
Florida started the game with lockdown defense thanks to sophomore Floor Toonders. The forward claimed her stake in the paint with two blocks on Murray State point-leader Katelyn Young. Toonders finished the half with three blocks but got in foul trouble twice. The sophomore didn’t leave the floor empty-handed after earning a bucket to follow a sweet spin move inside the paint.
Young is the score leader for Murray State but her nine points were a season-low. She was able to stay strong in the paint though, with 12 rebounds recorded.
“Young is a very talented post player and we knew that coming in,” Finley said. “I think she leads the country and field goal percentage. So we had worked really hard this week on knowing where (Young) was trying to be. Her footwork and her angles are exceptional.”
Young leads the Racers this season with an average of 20.8 points a game in front of senior guard Macey Turley (15.9). Turley finished Tuesday afternoon with 14 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Finley went on to praise the other forwards who put effort in the lockdown, such as junior Emanuely de Olveira, forward Kristina Moore and sophomore Jordyn Merritt.
Smith got in on the early turnover fun with two steals in the first half which transitioned to four fastbreak points. By the end of the day, Smith finished with four steals but was always top of the opposition to force mistakes. Offensively, the graduate student finished with 10 points, three assists and one rebound before walking off the court with an injury.
Smith made her way to the locker room under her own power, but there was no update available from coach Finley. The Wyche sisters and junior Faith Dut didn’t suit up due to a coach’s decision.
Not only did the Gators win the rebound battle, but they were also able to out-maneuver Murray State in the paint to gain 17 offensive boards compared to MSU’s eight. Florida created nine points on their second chances.
Florida also routed their second consecutive opponent in the turnover margins. Murray State coughed the ball up 25 times while the Gators were able to hold it to 13.
Freshman Alberte Rimdal has been taking extra shots after practice and her efforts in the first half showed exactly that. The Denmark sharpshooter found open looks within the Racers zone defense to nail two consecutive shots in a row in the first frame. She even found a look in the fourth quarter to add a cherry on top of a 11 point day with 3-4 attempts sinking from downtown.
junior guard Lavender Briggs also made her presence felt on the floor with 12 points and six rebounds while 2-4 from beyond the arc.
Now the Gators will take a break to enjoy the holidays with their families back home before beginning the SEC slate of the schedule. The next game will be a road trip to Starkville, Mississippi to challenge the Miss State Bulldogs on Dec. 30.