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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Florida women's hoops faces Georgia State in season opener

The Gators will host the Panthers for their first regular-season matchup

Florida women's basketball, including Kiari Smith (pictured), debuts Tuesday against Georgia Southern to begin the 2021-22 season.
Florida women's basketball, including Kiari Smith (pictured), debuts Tuesday against Georgia Southern to begin the 2021-22 season.

Florida women’s basketball enters Tuesday’s game in the O’Connell Center against Georgia State with a very different exhibition experience than its competitors.

The Gators dominated their exhibition game against Flagler College 101-56, while the Panthers fell to North Georgia 69-54 in their exhibition on Nov. 1.

Three fresh Florida faces scored double-digit points, including Alberte Rimdal, who led all scorers with 19 points. Senior Zippy Broughton, a transfer from Rutgers, and freshman Taliyah Wyche both hung 16 points on Flagler College to help the Gators score 101 points. 

Broughton said after the game that interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley played a big part in her decision to transfer to Florida. She said Finley recruited her in high school and emotions came flooding back when Finley recruited her again as a college player.

“I couldn’t have that heartbreak again from going to another school,” Broughton said. 

The Gators made their physicality in the paint known early, opening up their scoring with five straight field goals inside against the Saints. The Gators’ interior takeover didn’t stop there, as they ended the game outsourcing their opponents in the paint 62-14.

Finley said in post-game interviews that she was impressed with Wyche’s powerful display in the box, but she was not surprised.

“She prepares with a steadiness and her leadership is excellent,” Finley said. “She’s been working really hard.”

While Florida’s offensive power was on full display, Florida’s defense found its time in the spotlight. The Gators forced 22 turnovers and generated 14 steals, holding Flagler to 29.6% shooting from the field.

Georgia State was unable to completely close the door on a North Georgia comeback during their exhibition match-up. Despite a 7-0 run by the Panthers going into halftime, they clung to a three-point lead. 

The Nighthawks had a stellar third quarter and outscored the Panthers 20-7 to enter the fourth quarter leading 50-38. The Panthers cut the lead to nine with just over five minutes left in the fourth, but the deficit was too great to overcome.

Now, Georgia State enters the O’Dome with the tall task of facing a red-hot Florida team, and history is not on the Panthers’ side.

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The last time these two teams faced off, it was former coach Cam Newbauer’s coaching debut in November of 2017, and the Gators won 82-66.

The Newbauer era came to an end on July 16 when he resigned due to personal reasons, but multiple players detailed a toxic environment under his leadership. Athletic director Scott Stricklin named Finley as the interim head coach. Finley now also has the chance to make her coaching debut against Georgia State at the O’Dome. 

The game is set to begin at 5 p.m. and will be streamed live through 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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