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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Without Briggs, the Gators must ramp up their offense

Already struggling in conference, Florida’s situation is complicated by the absence of star guard Lavender Briggs

<p>Guards Nina Rickards and Danielle Rainey picked up the slack from Briggs’ absence, hitting career highs with 19 and 20 points. Photo from Feb. 15 UF-Kentucky game.</p>

Guards Nina Rickards and Danielle Rainey picked up the slack from Briggs’ absence, hitting career highs with 19 and 20 points. Photo from Feb. 15 UF-Kentucky game.

The Gators will look to avoid drowning in Alabama’s Crimson Tide Thursday in the absence of star guard Lavender Briggs. 

This is Florida’s second consecutive home-game after a 88-80 loss to No. 17 Kentucky Monday. Originally slated for 6 p.m., it will begin an hour early. 

Already struggling in conference, Florida’s situation is further complicated after the announcement that Briggs will be out for the season due to a leg injury. Briggs ranks No. 2 in the SEC in scoring and averages 21.8 points per game.

In Monday’s game, guards Nina Rickards and Danielle Rainey picked up the slack from Briggs’ absence. Rickards and Rainey hit career highs with 19 and 20 points, respectively. Star guard Kiara Smith’s performance was unsurprisingly excellent as she led the Gators with 23 points and recorded her sixth double-double.

Florida (10-9) looks for its fourth conference win with three games left in the season. 

Crimson threats to look out for

Thursday marks the 62nd time Florida and Alabama play each other. The win-loss divide tips in favor of the Tide as the Gators, currently holding a losing streak against their western neighbors. 

Florida can break that trend if it focuses on three powerful Crimson threats. 

Forward Jasmine Walker matches Briggs’ skill and averages 20.8 points per game, leaving her one of the SEC’s top-5 scorers. The senior also tops the SEC charts in rebounds per game with an average of 10.2. 

The Tide has another forward to watch for. Ariyah Copeland’s field goal percentages are best in the SEC and fourth-best nationwide at 61%. If the Gators don’t guard Copeland, Thursday’s meeting can be a nightmare as the senior averages 14.2 points per game. Guard Jordan Lewis is also among the SEC leaders in assists with 4.3 per game. 

Overall, Florida beats Alabama in scoring and rebounds per game. But a win is possible if Florida plays its cards right.

How to prevent the Tide from washing over Florida
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It’s simple but easier said than done: the offense needs to heat up. The Gators must get more offensive production from players beyond Briggs and Smith. And with Briggs out of the picture, there’s no way around it.

If Florida wants a dub, the matchup with Alabama should mirror Monday night’s game, where three players hit the double-digit range. Rickards and Rainey proved that they can make the shots, so now they need to be consistent to avoid a blowout — or even a small-margin loss. 

Thursday’s game is the Gators’ 10th nationally televised game. Tip-off is at 5 p.m. and will stream on the SEC Network.

Contact Grethel Aguila at gaguila@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @GrethelAguila

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