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Thursday, March 30, 2023
Ariel Johnson
Ariel Johnson

The charity stripe has not been kind to the Florida women’s basketball team throughout the first half of the regular season.

UF had only converted on 55.4 percent of its free-throw attempts and averaged 7.7 free-throw makes per game heading into Sunday afternoon’s clash with Davidson.

Despite going just 9 of 20 from the free-throw line against the Wildcats, the Gators drilled four of them in the last 30 seconds to come away with a 55-50 victory at the O’Connell Center.

Guard Ariel Johnson led Florida with a career-high 16 points off the bench on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, including a 3-of-7 showing from behind the arc.

The sophomore appeared in the starting lineup for the first nine games of the season but was replaced by guard Nina Rickards following a two-point performance in UF’s 76-66 loss to Kansas on Dec. 8.

“Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way, and I think this year, so far, (Ariel) hasn’t gotten the greatest bounces,” coach Cam Newbauer said in a release. “But she’s done a great job of staying courageous, keeping her eyes on the rim and trusting that it’s going to get better.”

Johnson, who played an average of 16 minutes in her last three games as a reserve, saw 29 minutes of action against Davidson -- her most in over a month.

“Honestly, I still have the same mentality when I start,” Johnson said. “Either way, I just come off the bench and do whatever I can to contribute to my team.”

Guard Kiara Smith pitched in with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor, and guard Lavender Briggs followed suit with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Briggs has proved to be an indispensable player for the Gators (9-4) despite her freshman status. The first-year guard leads the team in scoring (13.8 points per game) and just registered her 11th-consecutive game in double figures.

Davidson (7-6) shot just 33.9 percent from the field, including 5 of 19 from downtown.

Guard/forward Sarah Konstans was the only player for the Wildcats to hit a three-pointer. Like Johnson, she came off the bench to lead her team in scoring (17 points).

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Florida held a 38-36 advantage at the end of the third quarter but edged past the Wildcats in the fourth, outscoring them 17-14 in the final 10 minutes to earn its ninth victory of the year, surpassing its win total from last season (eight).

“It wasn’t pretty or the way you drew it up, but the great thing is that we have some good areas to improve on,” Newbauer said. “We’ll have tomorrow off, and then we'll get ready for our first SEC game.”

The Gators will begin their conference slate on the road against Mississippi State on Thursday night in Starkville, Mississippi.

Contact Bryan at and follow him on Twitter @bryan_2712

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