A lot has changed since December 5, 1986.
But tonight, for the first time in almost 30 years, the Florida Gators women’s basketball team will square off against Tennessee Chattanooga in a regular-season matchup.
No. 20 Florida (1-0) will look to build on its momentum when it travels to McKenzie Arena for the second game of a season-opening 12-match road trip. Hoping to win its first two games of the season for the first time since 2014-15, the Gators will attempt to follow up on Friday’s 85-33 victory over South Alabama.
Their opponent, however, will be looking for a strong start of its own.
Coming off of a 66-53 victory over Rutgers, Chattanooga is one of the toughest programs that the Southern Conference has to offer.
The Mocs have claimed SoCon’s regular season and tournament championships each of the last four years. Accumulating a record of 111-20 in that span, they’ve also made four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Chattanooga is an experienced team — having only lost one letterwinner to graduation, head coach Jim Foster will return 12 players from last season’s group, headlined by senior forward Jasmine Joyner and junior guard Keiana Gilbert.
A prolific shot-stopper, the 6-foot-2 Joyner blocked 3.94 shots per game last season, second-most in the nation. The Southaven, Mississippi, native also led her team in scoring (13.1 per game) and rebounding (9.2 per game), nearly averaging a double-double per game.
Hailing from Pulaski, Tennessee, Gilbert plays an all-around game. Equally adept on offense and defense, the third-year letterwinner paced her team in three-point percentage (.421), finishing second in both assists (2.2 per game) and steals (1.3 per game) en route to earning SoCon All-Conference Second Team honors.
Florida, on the other hand, will look to counter with its own two-headed attack.
Named to the SEC’s preseason All-Conference team, senior forward Ronni Williams and sophomore guard Eleanna Christinaki are set to power the Gators’ offense after finishing first and second in team scoring last season, respectively. The nation’s 16th-highest scoring unit last year, UF will also receive help in the form of freshmen Delicia Washington, Elif Portakal and Sydney Searcy.
Averaging 21 minutes each, the trio combined for 12 points, nine assists and seven steals in Friday’s win, and are once again primed to make an impact against the Mocs.
The Gators will tip-off at 6:30 pm.
Eleanna Christinaki looks to drive to the basket while two Kentucky players defend her during Florida's 92-69 loss to the Wildcats in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on March 4, 2016, in Jacksonville.