UF comfortably returned to winning ways on Wednesday against Charleston Southern, forcing 21 Buccaneer turnovers and snagging 17 offensive rebounds en route to a 67-52 win.
The Gators opened the contest less convincingly, struggling to generate any offensive mojo and appearing tentative against the UF zone. Eight first-quarter turnovers coupled with strong perimeter shooting from CSU meant that Florida held a slim 14-11 lead after the opening period.
UF’s struggles continued into the second quarter, as a sputtering Florida attack allowed Charleston Southern to take a 22-19 lead following a jumper from Buccaneers sophomore Tori Gittens.
Florida immediately stepped up on both ends of the floor, surrendering just four more first-half points while three-pointers from sophomore Nina Rickards and seniors Kiara Smith and Danielle Rainey fueled an 11-3 run, capped off by a layup from Smith.
UF’s pressure began to generate turnovers, as CSU committed seven turnovers in the second quarter, which generally led to Gator buckets. A 12-2 run in the final 3:39 of the first half effectively ended the game at halftime, with Florida leading by 16 at the break.
Smith has continued to be UF’s most consistent offensive player, scoring in double figures for the third consecutive game with 15 points on 7-13 from the field Wednesday night. Smith has managed to shoot better than 50% from the field so far this season, using her quickness to get to the rim and understanding her limitations as a perimeter shooter.
The sophomore point-guard has received help running the offense from protege Nina Rickards, who has stepped up her production this year with sophomore Lavender Briggs’ early struggles. Rickards scored 12 points Wednesday and continues to be the Gators’ most consistent three-point threat.
“I’m learning from Kiki,” Rickards said. “She’s one of the best point guards I ever played with. I can catch and shoot and pull-up. I’m used to the run and I’m getting help from my teammates.”
Florida kept its foot on the gas in the second half, stretching the Gators lead to 20 and maintaining that margin up until the final minutes of the game.
Coach Cam Newbauer continued to experiment with his defense, employing both man and 2-3 zone coverage along with a new-look: 2-2-1 press defense. UF also granted 10 players double-digit minutes on Wednesday, demonstrating the staff’s focus on creating a deep squad this season.
UF improves to 2-1 on the season after its victory and will face another quick turnaround, squaring off against Cincinnati on Dec. 5. Tip-off is at 1 p.m. against the Bearcats and fans can watch the game live at the O’Connell Center or on the SEC Network +.
Contact Declan Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @dawalsh_UF.