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Wednesday, October 20, 2021
<p>Kiara Smith</p>

Kiara Smith

Seven games, zero losses. 

Between Florida’s women’s basketball team and Indiana’s, that is the combined record. The Hoosiers are 3-0, and the Gators are 4-0. The battle of unbeatens will be in Gainesville on Friday night at 6 p.m. This is by far the best team the Gators have played this season, but Florida has started out hot.

Here’s what the Gators need to keep doing to top IU: 

Controlling the pace

Redshirt junior point guard Kiara Smith captains everything for this Florida team. The offense  runs through her, and the pace this year has been a huge reason for its success. Smith is unbothered by whatever defense gets thrown at her. When she speeds up or slows down, it is done on her terms, not the opponent’s, which has allowed UF to dictate the flow of its games thus far. 

“One thing that I wanted to work on coming back this season was being more aggressive,” Smith said. “So it’s just (being more aggressive) and still finding my open teammates.” 

Keeping Briggs’ light green

The Gators have drastically improved from last season, and it’s largely with the same cast of players. What changed? Perhaps it is the main personnel addition this season: freshman shooting guard Lavender Briggs. The Provo, Utah, native is shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 13 points a contest. 

She’s been steady all season so far but exploded against Samford. That day, she had 19 points on 43.8 percent shooting. The main stat from that game though, was her 83.3 percent from three. 

“I was missing a lot of shots (before the Samford game), but I just kept shooting,” Briggs said. “Coach (Cam Newbauer) kept saying, ‘Can’t score if you don’t shoot.’”

Obviously, 83 percent shooting is unrealistic to expect on a regular basis, but in all likelihood, Florida will need her firepower on Friday night. The Hoosiers currently average 92.3 points a game. It is unlikely that the Gators will hold them to under 50 like Samford and Presbyterian. 

Feeding Johnson, Williams

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Sophomore guard Ariel Johnson has been hot as of late, and redshirt senior forward Zada Williams has been playing well all season. After only a combined five points in the first two games, Johnson has 15 and 10 in the last two contests, respectively. Williams is averaging 7.5 points per game on 32.4 percent shooting. 

“All of us are pretty good, all of us can score,” Johnson said. “We’re all aggressive, we all have that mindset, just to win, to play hard, and let it happen.” 

As Indiana is Florida’s toughest game so far, coach Cam Newbauer knows his team needs to play high-level basketball to stack one more to the win column on Friday night. 

“(Indiana is) playing really, really well right now, they’re scoring a lot of points,” Newbauer said. “We’ve got to be physical and be more poised.” 

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

Kiara Smith

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