Florida’s overreliance on the consistent production of star guards Lavender Briggs and Kiara Smith is beginning to haunt the team.
In Sunday’s road loss to No. 20 Tennessee, Briggs and Smith scored more than two-thirds of Florida’s 65 points. Each guard scored 23 points. Smith shot 41.7% from the field, while Briggs fired 36% from the floor and hit five of her 15 three-point attempts.
The tandem combined for 19 rebounds as Smith notched her fourth double-double this season. Smith added five assists, and both guards combined for six steals.
Aside from Briggs and Smith, the remaining Gators made just six field goals and shot under 20% from the field. Florida’s lack of depth remains a weakness, especially since the start of conference action.
Through nine SEC games, Briggs and Smith average a combined 38.7 points per game. That’s more than half of the team’s average scoring. The duo combined for more than half the team’s assists and steals, and each guard averages more than six rebounds per game.
“Lav (Briggs) and Kiki (Smith) have real consistent preparation,” Florida assistant head coach Kelly Rae Finley said. “We’re looking for more production from everyone else.”
Florida’s third-leading scorer, sophomore guard Nina Rickards, averaged around 10 points per game entering conference play. Since then, Rickards’ average dropped to 7.1 points per game. Her field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentages plunged too. In 20 minutes against Tennessee, Rickards performance slump hit a season low as she failed to register a point.
Florida’s next five leading scorers have yet to step up since the beginning of SEC play. Forwards Faith Dut, Jordyn Merritt and Floor Toonders and guards Danielle Rainey and Kristina Moore have all seen their scoring averages decline.
Following a week off, the Gators will return to game action Feb. 11 in Baton Rouge as they prepare to face LSU. Of Florida’s five remaining games, two of its opponents are ranked: No. 15 Kentucky and No. 22 Georgia.
But until the Gators address their lack of depth, Florida will continue to lean heavily on Briggs and Smith to produce in all aspects down the stretch.
"They prepare effortlessly with intention every single day,” Finley said. “And so, their consistency has been earned by them. It hasn't been given and we're proud of them. Now, we just got to be able to close."
Contact Griffin Foll at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GriffinFoll
Griffin Foll is a sophomore at UF studying journalism sports and media. He is one of The Alligator's women’s basketball beat writers. Griffin is also a UF softball beat reporter for ChompTalk.com and contributes weekly articles for ESPN Gainesville.