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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Freshmen standouts steal show at O’Dome exhibition

The Gators won 101-56 in Friday’s game against Flagler College

Florida guard Kiara Smith (pictured) and the Gators women's basketball team released its 2021-22 non-conference schedule Tuesday.
Florida guard Kiara Smith (pictured) and the Gators women's basketball team released its 2021-22 non-conference schedule Tuesday.

Florida dominated an outmatched Flagler College, a Division II school, on Friday night en route to a 101-56 victory in interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley’s first game at the helm since she took over for former coach Cam Newbauer who resigned due to personal reasons in July.

Freshman guard Alberte Rimdal and freshman forward Taliyah Wyche stole the show with their 3-point shooting (Rimdal) and paint scoring (Wyche).

Flagler struggled to score early and the Gators took full advantage, jumping out to a 13-4 lead five minutes into the first quarter. Sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt had the hot hand early, scoring 8 in the first quarter on 4-6 shooting. 

Flagler looked to close the deficit to one possession, but the Gators caught fire and went 5-7 from the field in their last seven possessions of the first quarter to take a 27-13 lead into the second.

Conditions only worsened for Flagler in the second quarter, the Saints scored only 7 points in the 10 minute period to Florida’s 24. 

The Gators’ physicality was the decisive factor in the eventual blowout, as the Flagler frontcourt struggled to protect the glass. Thirty of Florida’s 51 first-half points came in the paint, while Flagler scored just four. Through 20 minutes, Florida led Flagler 34-13 in rebounds with 13 offensive boards.

It wasn’t all just bully ball though, Rimdal went 3-4 beyond the arc and tacked on a driving layup to finish with 11 in the half. 

Flagler began the second half strong, going on an 8-0 scoring run. Florida’s lead still remained above 20 and the lead grew as fresh legs hit the court. Suddenly, the Gators peeled off a 6-0 run of their own by continuing to pound the glass.

The contest was virtually over, Florida cycled through a variety of defensive sets in the third quarter, trying out full-court and half-court presses. 

Offensively, the Gators began to settle for 3-pointers more and more as the second half progressed, scoring on just 28% of their attempts. Rimdal, who scored 19 in her debut, was the only Gator who tickled the twine with any luck from deep. The Denmark native finished with four of Florida’s seven 3s.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Finley said of Rimdal. “That’s just how she prepares every single day. She’s a great floor leader”.

Freshman forward Taliyah Wyche was dominant in the paint, scoring 14 on 7-7 from the floor. 

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“That’s pretty impressive, 7-7 from the floor,” Finley said. “Taliyah prepares with a steadiness, her leadership is excellent and she’s been working very hard.”

Senior guard Zippy Broughton turned in a strong outing after a slow start as she finished with 16 points on 7-14 shooting.

“We’re really deep,” Finley said about the main takeaways from the exhibition. “We have a lot of players that can contribute depending on what the game calls for.” 

Florida takes the court next against Georgia State on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Stephen O’Connell Center. The game can be streamed live through SEC Network+.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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