Photo by James Gilbert | Getty Images

The Florida Gators cruised to a dominant win over No. 7 Tennessee at Exactech Arena on Thursday. A 9-0 run midway through the first quarter saw the Gators gain separation and the lead never wavered. The final score: 84-59.

Florida’s defense was suffocating as they forced 18 turnovers and held the Lady Vols to 37.5% shooting from the field. The Gators scored 26 points off Tennessee turnovers.

Florida (16-6, 6-3 SEC) was led by guard Kiki Smith who finished with 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Smith also led the defensive charge as she recorded a team high four steals. Nina Rickards added 16 points and eight rebounds while Jordyn Merritt contributed 13 points on 5-8 from the floor.

The Gators also outrebounded the Vols 40-38 despite the length advantage that Tennessee possessed. “Our advantage is our quickness and our speed,” head coach Kelly Rae Finley said.

Overall, the Gators shot 53% from the floor, making 33-62 attempts.

For Tennessee (19-3, 8-2 SEC) , the 25 point margin marked the largest loss to an unranked team in the history of the AP Poll in 1976.

Florida will play three straight on the road beginning Sunday at No. 13 Georgia before returning to the O’Dome on February 17.

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