Delicia Washington plays like a cheetah on a sugar rush.
The sophomore guard is the quickest player in the Gators’ starting lineup. She uses her speed to get around defenders and drive into the paint. Depending on the look she gets from defenses, Washington can make a mesmerizing jump pass to a shooter in the corner, put up a step-back jumper or try for the contested layup.
When Florida (10-13, 2-8 SEC) takes on No. 2 Mississippi State Thursday night at 7 in the O’Connell Center, it might need Washington’s raw energy to be a little more refined.
Since UF’s matchup with LSU on Jan. 14, Washington has gone as far as to write the words “game speed,” on her arm before she gets on the court. Teammate Dyandria Anderson said it serves as a reminder for Washington to perform with consistent agility in both practice and games.
“She’s always going to keep the same mentality going into everything,” Anderson said.
When Mississippi State and Florida first played in Starkville on Jan. 25, Washington turned the ball over nine times, tying her season high.
In all, the Bulldogs (24-0, 10-0 SEC) forced the Gators into 23 turnovers in their first matchup, tied for the third-highest mark for UF on the season. MSU cashed in to the tune of 27 points off Florida giveaways on its way to a comfortable 90-53 win.
However, Washington may be on her way to reeling in her inconsistencies. In Monday night’s 66-64 loss to No. 15 Missouri, she committed just one turnover and put up a season-high 23 points. Washington also provided a crucial assist on a late Funda Nakkasoglu three-pointer. As a whole, UF turned the ball over seven times against the Tigers, its second fewest on the season and the first time it hasn’t given up possession more than 10 times since November.
Washington’s shooting has also improved as of late. In her first five conference games, she shot 25.3 percent from the field. Over her second five SEC matchups, Washington is shooting 40.3 percent, including going 5 of 11 against Mississippi State.
Washington said she and her teammates are looking forward to the rematch.
“We’re not going down without a fight,” she said.
Mississippi State guard Roshunda Johnson will be charged with slowing down Washington. The redshirt senior shadowed Washington throughout the majority of their first matchup. Johnson forced Washington into rushed passes, came away with three steals and forced a double-dribble call on her opponent. She didn’t allow Washington open looks either, as the Gators guard was just 1-of-6 shooting going into the fourth quarter.
Coach Cameron Newbauer said he welcomed the opportunity to get his players more experience against one of the best teams in the nation and to use the rematch as a barometer for his team’s progress.
“I’m excited to see the growth we’ve made since that game,” Newbauer said. “I think our team’s going to be fired up and ready to go.”