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Friday, January 15, 2021

Gators look to avoid 0-5 conference start against No. 17 Arkansas

Florida hopes to snap four-game losing skid

After a dominant, 25-point victory over UNF on Dec. 21, UF has endured a three-week dry patch.

Florida lost four SEC games to No. 5 South Carolina, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 14 Mississippi State and Georgia. The Gators face their fourth ranked opponent since New Year’s Eve at 8 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas, as they take on the No. 17 Razorbacks.

Recent Arkansas Woes

Arkansas heads into the game with a 10-4 record and a 6-1 home record. The Razorbacks have struggled as of late after an impressive 9-1 start to their season. With a 1-3 conference record, they sit at 10th in the SEC standings. Nevertheless, Arkansas sits above last-place Florida. At their peak, the Razorbacks ranked inside the top 10 in the country. 

Hungry Hogs

Coming off Sunday’s one-point loss to No. 8 Texas A&M, Arkansas will be hungry to get back in the win column. They’ll rely on their senior guard duo in Chelsea Dungee and Destiny Slocum, who combine for more than 35 points per game. The Gators will also need to contain Arkansas guard Amber Ramirez, who’s averaging 12.5 points a game and shooting above 45% from beyond the arc.

Notable Gators

Florida has only two double-digit scorers, but the Gators backcourt, consisting of sophomore guard Lavender Briggs and redshirt senior Kiara Smith, has been nothing short of spectacular. Briggs is averaging 17.8 points per game and ranks No. 6 in the SEC in scoring. She enters the game off a 16-point effort versus Georgia. Smith averages 15 points per game while shooting 48.6% from the field. 

Florida’s next highest scorer, sophomore guard Nina Rickards, should be a force on the boards as she’s averaging a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game. Rickards’ versatility has been crucial for Florida as she also leads the team in three-point percentage. Rickards is shooting at an impressive 42.9% clip from beyond the arc.

Keys to the Game

It will be critical for Florida to manage Arkansas’ high-powered offense. The Razorbacks average 86.6 points per game, which ranks top 10 in the nation. Despite this, Florida held No. 14 Mississippi State to 15 points fewer than its 83-point scoring average. Meanwhile, Florida boasts a positive scoring margin as the Gators are averaging 73.7 points per game while allowing slightly more than 65 points per game. 

Arkansas is shooting above 37% from three, but Florida’s three-point defense aims to continue its success and limit the Razorbacks from outside the arc. The Gators are currently allowing opponents to make just 24% of their three-pointers. 

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Briggs averaged 18.5 points in two matchups against Arkansas last season. Given her recent success and impressive track record, look for the Gators to feed Briggs the basketball early and often. 

Contact Griffin Foll at gfoll@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter @GriffinFoll



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