It has been a frustrating season for the Florida women’s basketball team, but one signal that greener pastures could be on the horizon can be found at the bottom of the stat sheet after every game: bench points.
The team’s bench, composed mostly of younger players, is outscoring opponents 336-218 this season. It has also outscored the opposition’s bench in all five of its wins.
“If your bench isn’t scoring, then you’re doing something wrong,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “You always wanna have something different when [bench players] come in. Bring something new, whether it be energy, different skillset or something off the bench when you get in the game.”
With the season now past its halfway point, the bench is starting to contribute more. It’s averaging 23.75 points per game in SEC play, a solid four points above the season average.
The two biggest contributors have been forward Zada Williams and guard Ariel Johnson. Williams, a redshirt junior, has emerged as the team’s third-leading scorer with 9.1 points per game despite starting only four of 17 games. Johnson, a freshman, is averaging 5.3 points per game and is second on the team with 22 threes despite only starting three games.
“You know when it’s your time to come out the game, you have somebody to replace you that can come in and play the same role as you,” Delicia Washington, the team’s second-leading scorer, said. “That’s a good feeling.”
Williams and Johnson aren’t the only two factors in making Florida’s bench a dominant one. Redshirt sophomore guard Danielle Rainey has been a big factor lately, averaging eight points a game in SEC play, including a team-high and career-high 16 in the Gators’ upset win over Missouri on Sunday.
The significant margin by which Florida’s bench has outscored its opponents bodes well for next season, with leading scorer Funda Nakkasoglu in her final season with the team. Nakkasoglu is one of just a few players who was with the team last year, and her 16.6 points per game is by far the highest average on the team.
Newbauer eased most of his new players into roles with the team early in the season while Washington and Nakkasoglu did most of the scoring. Now, with the team’s chances at a postseason berth basically nonexistent, look for Newbauer to continue incorporating more of the younger players as the season continues.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano and contact him at email@example.com.
Florida guard Ariel Johnson is averaging 5.3 points per game and is second on the team with 22 three-pointers.