Florida’s women’s basketball team has the opportunity on Tuesday to do what it only did once last season: win a road game.
The Gators only won one game on an opponent’s home floor in their 2018-19 campaign.
Overall, coach Cam Newbauer’s squad only won eight times all season, finishing second to last in the SEC, behind only Vanderbilt. In 2019, the season tips off against Grambling State on the road for UF following an 84-38 exhibition win against Valdosta State on Wednesday.
The exhibition showcased areas where Florida can thrive in the 2019-20 campaign. Here are three of those:
UF’s starting point guard Kiara Smith showed off an impressive first step against VSU on Wednesday. She consistently blew past whoever the Blazers had guarding her, especially in the first half. Her penetration inside was necessary, since Smith and the rest of the Gators struggled behind the three-point line at 0-10 in the first two quarters.
It opened up the floor for everyone else. Smith showed off good court vision on Wednesday, she led the team with 20 points and five assists to make Florida’s offense flow. A huge component to that was her forcing VSU to play help defense.
With how streaky the Gators are behind the three-point line, guards consistently getting close to the cup is a must for a team that only broke 80 points one time last season.
Williams and Nichols’ size
Forwards Zada Williams and Emer Nichols bullied VSU. Over 27 percent of UF’s points came from those two players. Whenever Smith or fellow guard Lavender Briggs fed either of them in the post, the Blazers had no answer.
But as the season begins, those two will have to face more size and may not get to have their way quite as much as they did against VSU. However, it seems that Florida will at least have a formidable front court.
The second half was the only time that UF shot from beyond the arc with any success. While the first half was a zero-percent effort, the second half was 5-19. That is still uninspiring, but UF needs to take advantage of any pocket of time that anyone has a hot hand. At one point in the third quarter, Smith hit two within three minutes of each other.
As a result, Florida had its highest point total of any quarter at 29. With the size advantage down low, and Smith’s ability to penetrate, open looks will be available. The Gators just have to occasionally find the bottom of the net.
Guard Danielle Rainey tore her ACL last week in practice, so this season already has a difficult blow before it even commences.
However, as bad as Valdosta State may be, Florida dominated the Blazers from opening tip to the final buzzer. Perhaps that exhibition could bode some sort of confidence UF never had a year ago. Perhaps this year will look differently.
Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Forward Zada Williams had 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting in UF’s exhibition win over Valdosta State.