Florida’s women’s basketball team has relied heavily on its backcourt tandem of point guard Kiara Smith and shooting guard Lavender Briggs.
The two have developed a good rapport less than a month into the season, and it has been one of the main reasons why UF enjoyed its first 4-0 start under coach Cam Newbauer.
Briggs, however, is considered day-to-day after suffering a high ankle sprain in practice earlier this week.
She didn’t play Friday night against No. 18 Indiana, and her absence doomed Florida’s offense, as the Gators fell 73-49 against the Hoosiers at the O’Connell Center.
“You have different people playing different roles, but that's the game,” Newbauer said about playing without his second-leading scorer. “It's a great opportunity for us to learn how to do that this early in the season because it could happen later.”
Florida’s (4-1) sloppy play at the start of the game put it in a 12-6 hole with 2:52 remaining in the first quarter. But the Gators went on a 9-0 run thanks to forward Emer Nichols and guards Ariel Johnson and Smith.
Both Nichols and Smith made driving layups, while Johnson knocked down a three-pointer and a jumper to give UF a 15-12 lead. Indiana guard Chanel Wilson ended her team’s scoring drought as time expired in the first quarter with a trey from the corner to tie the game at 15-15.
The Hoosiers (4-0) showed why they’re the 18th-ranked team in the nation throughout the second quarter. They went on an 11-3 run to open the period, giving them a 26-18 advantage less than four minutes in, which forced Florida coach Cam Newbauer to call a timeout.
Newbauer’s decision to settle things down appeared to work, as guard Nina Rickards drained a shot from downtown at the 6:55 mark for UF’s second basket of the quarter. But Indiana scored eight-straight points to extend its lead to 34-21.
IU’s 48.4 percent (15-of-31) shooting and Florida’s 12 turnovers in the first half saw the Hoosiers take an 11-point advantage heading into the locker room.
A hook shot from Nichols at the 7:50 mark of the third quarter got the Gators within nine points, but that was as close as they got for the rest of the night.
Florida struggled to get anything going offensively in the last 20 minutes. It shot just 29.6 percent (8 of 27) from the floor, including a dismal 12.5 percent (1 of 8) from downtown, as the Gators saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.
“We battled the whole game and tried to compete and make things happen,” Newbauer said. “The great thing is that it's a long season, and this is only Game 5. The loss stings and it wasn't the result we wanted, but it's part of this.”
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