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Saturday, October 23, 2021
Kiara Smith
Kiara Smith

Twenty minutes of basketball, 23 three-point attempts and zero points. 

This was the stat line when the halftime buzzer sounded in Florida’s women’s basketball exhibition against Valdosta State.

The Gators eventually defeated the Blazers 84-38 in the O’Connell Center on Wednesday, six days before their season tips off against Grambling State. 

Florida finished the first half up 28-15, but it felt like the Gators were only winning because of their size. Forwards Emer Nichols and Zada Williams got anything they wanted in the paint, combining for 14 of those 28 points. UF took advantage of the severe size discrepancy that VSU had to deal with. 

While the extra size aided the Gators offensively, it seemed to be a non-factor on the glass. 

“I don’t like the 13 offensive rebounds that they got,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “We’ve got to do a better job there boxing out.”

In the second half, UF’s outside shots finally started falling. After a zero percent, 0-10 effort in the first half, guards Kiara Smith and Lavender Briggs hit three from beyond the arc before the third quarter hit the seven-minute mark. 

“Even though we were missing, they (the coaches) always tell us to keep shooting the ball,” Smith said. “Nobody was really looking at the numbers, we just kept our eyes on the rim.”

Suddenly, with threatening shooting to space the floor, Florida’s offense looked fluid from point guard to center. And by the end of the third quarter, Florida blew open an already lopsided affair and had the score at 57-21. 

Starting point guard Smith proved herself to be the most complete player on the court. She was the only player on either team to hit at least three threes, through eight attempts from long range at 37.5 percent. The redshirt junior also finished with a total of 18 points, five points higher than any player on either team.

Whether it was the outside shot in the second half, or beating VSU’s guards off the dribble to finish at the cup in the first, Smith was clearly a force from the tip to the final buzzer. With fellow guard Danielle Rainey out for the season with a torn ACL, UF’s backcourt will in all likelihood need consistently solid performances from Smith all season to remain competitive in the SEC. 

When the final buzzer sounded, the Gators had won in commanding fashion, 84-38. Newbauer’s team showed an ability to be effective offensively in multiple ways throughout the night. 

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As far as the defensive end of the court, holding any team to 38 points is a positive. However, the Blazers’ shooting was atrocious (finishing with a 21.9 field goal percentage as a team), so UF’s ability to slow teams down will be unknown until it plays stiffer competition.

“I thought we did a good job of carving up space,” Newbauer said. “We made our presence known on both ends of the floor.”

Contact Graham Marsh at gmarsh@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF

 

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