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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Florida hopes to extend two-game winning streak Monday

The Gators (3-2) faces USC Upstate (2-1) at home before a four-game road trip

<p>Florida&#x27;s Kiara Smith pictured during a Jan. 28, 2021 game against Mizzou. Smith led Florida with 18 points versus Vanderbilt Thursday, but 28 turnovers plagued the Gators. </p>

Florida's Kiara Smith pictured during a Jan. 28, 2021 game against Mizzou. Smith led Florida with 18 points versus Vanderbilt Thursday, but 28 turnovers plagued the Gators.

The Gators step on to the court at the Stephen O’Connell Center against the University of South Carolina Upstate defending much more than their home floor. 

Florida currently holds a two-game winning streak powered by commanding defensive performances in their last two games.

This deafening defensive campaign began Nov. 15 against Wofford. To close out the Preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament, the Gators held the Terriers to just four points in the entire third quarter to secure the 61-47 win. 

The Gators swarmed the Terriers and disrupted their offense often, forcing 20 turnovers and nabbing 10 steals. Graduate student Kiara Smith had a team-high six steals in the final game and was named to the All-Tournament Team.

Following a defensive revival against the Terriers, Florida made the trip home from Raleigh, North Carolina to face Grambling State last Friday. 

The Gators rolled after a competitive first quarter and went up 33-29 against the Tigers when senior forward Kristina Moore landed awkwardly while trying to secure an offensive rebound. Trainers helped her off the court, and she did not return for the rest of the game. Interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley didn’t provide an update on her after the game.

Florida was already short as far as their depth with junior forward Faith Dut and sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt, who didn’t play against the Tigers due to injuries. Finley said freshmen forwards Taliyah and Tatyana Wyche missed the game versus the Tigers due to a coach’s decision. 

Despite missing some role players, the Gators found a way to come out on top because of breakout performances from Farrell and senior forward Emanuely de Oliveira, who scored 17 and 14 points. Farrell also went perfect from the field, going five for five. 

Finley said it took a collective effort to get the win and praised Farrell for being prepared for the moment when it mattered most.

“Brynn Farrell, off the bench, is another person who’s always ready,” Finley said. “To be perfect from the floor tonight, I thought she made some really big toughness plays and huge moments for us.”

The next opponent for the Gators will be an unknown enemy with a winning streak of its own to defend on the hardwood. The Spartans have won their last two games against South Carolina State, 70-51, and Columbia International, 81-40.

Against the Rams, USC Upstate had four players reach double figures and a career-high 17 points from freshman guard Terah Harness.

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One team’s winning streak will come to an end Monday night as tip-off is set to begin at 6 p.m. The game can be streamed live on SEC Network+.

Contact Brenda Bogle at Follow her on Twitter @bogle_brenda.

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Brenda Bogle

Brenda Bogle is a UF journalism senior with a specialization in sports and media. She joined The Alligator in the Fall of 2021.

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