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Sunday, January 24, 2021
<p><span>Kayla Lewis (22) shoots during Florida’s 87-54 win against Alabama on Feb. 3 in the O’Connell Center.</span></p>
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Kayla Lewis (22) shoots during Florida’s 87-54 win against Alabama on Feb. 3 in the O’Connell Center.


Kayla Lewis has been an enigma for Florida this season. 

On some nights, the sophomore uses a blend of quickness and athleticism to make her presence felt, such as her performance against Ole Miss on Jan. 24. 

Lewis scored a career-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the Gators’ 88-81 loss to the Rebels. She also pulled down seven rebounds and notched a block, putting together the type of all-around effort coach Amanda Butler envisioned when she recruited Lewis out of Decatur, Ga.

“Mississippi was definitely my best offensive game that I’ve played since I’ve been in college,” Lewis said. “My coaches were very pleased with it.”

However, on other nights, Butler and her coaching staff are left wondering if Lewis even traveled with the team. 

A week after her dominant effort against Ole Miss, Lewis and Florida played at Missouri on Jan. 31. UF was in the midst of a four-game losing streak. 

Against the Tigers, Lewis exemplified what makes her play so confounding. She scored just two points on 1-of-5 shooting and grabbed only two rebounds. 

Following the Gators’ 69-64 loss, Butler lashed out at her team. She made no effort to mask her frustration with the inconsistencies that have plagued Florida throughout the season and especially during Southeastern Conference play. 

“We have a consistency and reliability problem, and it’s a bad time of year to be experiencing that because you’re going to play great teams every night,” Butler said following the loss to Missouri. “Every game, someone doesn’t show up. Somebody on our team doesn’t show up and doesn’t give us what we need from her.”

Though Butler’s criticism was not specifically directed at Lewis, the sophomore was certainly not the exception. Lewis was hardly a factor in the game and her performance epitomized the efforts that have left Butler exasperated. 

Lewis is averaging 8.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season. She logs 21.8 minutes per contest. Yet in her first full season — Lewis missed the final 14 games of her freshman campaign and received a medical redshirt last year — she must become more reliable with a lower degree of variance, something Lewis has started to understand. 

“I definitely expect more of myself, and I think my teammates and coaches do as well,” Lewis said. 

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“Not just trying to be a part of this team but be an impact player and do whatever that means — if that means to rebound, if that means to score, if that means to be a stopper on defense or make good passes on the inside. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to win.”  

The Gators need to string together wins to bolster their odds of making the NCAA Tournament. Florida plays at Auburn on Sunday at 3 p.m. and has six other remaining games prior to the SEC Tournament. 

Improved production from Lewis will be critical during that stretch. 

 

Recruit earns honor: The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association selected Class of 2013 prospect Ronni Williams as one of 20 high school players to participate in the 2013 WBCA High School All-America Game. 

Williams, a 6-foot-2 forward, is the first Gators signee ever selected to the annual game, which began in 1992. The Daytona Beach native is the nation’s No. 13 overall prospect and is also a nominee for the McDonald’s All-American Game, which will announce its participants on Feb. 14.

Contact Phillip Heilman at pheilman@alligator.org


Kayla Lewis (22) shoots during Florida’s 87-54 win against Alabama on Feb. 3 in the O’Connell Center.


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