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Tuesday, December 07, 2021
<p>UF forward Ronni Williams dribbles the ball during Florida's 84-75 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2017, in the O'Connell Center. </p>

UF forward Ronni Williams dribbles the ball during Florida's 84-75 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2017, in the O'Connell Center. 

Shimmy Gray-Miller still gets angry when she watches film of Florida’s last game against Texas A&M.

The Gators faced the Aggies back on Jan. 15 at the O’Connell Center in a 67-59 defeat, the only time UF has lost when leading at halftime this season.

Gray-Miller, an assistant coach in her second year at Florida, credits second-half defensive lapses as the Gators’ downfall in their first go-around with Texas A&M, but expects a much better performance from her players tonight when the two programs meet in a rematch.

“It’s a game that I felt like we should have won,” Gray-Miller said, “but we are such a completely different team than we were.”

UF takes on the Aggies at 8 p.m. at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, hoping to continue what’s been a much better recent stretch of play.

After losing its opening five SEC contests for the first time in over a decade, Florida has rebounded to win two of its last three games, defeating Georgia on Jan. 22 and Vanderbilt on Sunday.

The Gators (11-10, 2-6 SEC) have been led all season by senior forward Ronni Williams, who averages 19.4 points per game to rank first in the conference in scoring.

Williams was particularly impressive over her past two outings, averaging 37 points and 8.5 rebounds to earn SEC Co-Player of the Week honors along with Tennessee’s Jaime Nared.

“That’s a blessing just being able to perform the way I did for my team,” the senior said. “Winning is always important and a great thing.”

UF has also received recent boosts from freshman guards Delicia Washington and Sydney Morang.

Washington notched 20 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field in Florida’s victory over the Commodores on Sunday for her 11th double-figure scoring game this year.

Morang, on the other hand, was inserted into the starting lineup two contests ago and has provided the Gators some solid play, committing only one turnover in 64 minutes of action as a starter.

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“We’re definitely a lot more confident,” junior guard Dyandria Anderson said. “The freshmen are playing great. They’re growing up. Babies are finally getting older, getting comfortable, understanding what SEC play is like and they’re all doing their job and doing it well.”

While UF has gotten better, Texas A&M will be no easy task.

The Aggies (15-6, 5-3 SEC) have won four of their last six games and are led by the duo of sophomore guard Danni Williams and junior center Khaalia Hillsman, who both rank in the top 10 in scoring in the conference.

Senior Curtyce Knox is a player of note as well, averaging nine assists per game at the point guard position for the best mark in the NCAA.

All three players scored at least 15 points against Florida back on Jan. 15 and will be key focal points defensively for the Gators if they want to escape College Station with a victory.

“They have great players, but we should win the paint this game and we need to do our job on the defensive end,” Anderson said.

One asset UF will be getting back against Texas A&M tonight is junior forward Brooke Copeland, who has been out since Jan. 22 with a concussion.

Copeland, who is referred to by some as the heart and soul of this team, received clearance to play on Wednesday by team doctors and shared the news via Snapchat.

“That’s a huge, huge return because Brooke – she does all the dirty work,” Williams said. “She’s taking the charges, she’s diving on the floor, she’s shooting the three, she’s giving us all the positive energy we need.”

Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.

UF forward Ronni Williams dribbles the ball during Florida's 84-75 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2017, in the O'Connell Center. 

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