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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Gators face Towson in first game of preseason WNIT

Florida travels to Raleigh, North Carolina, to compete in three game tournament

<p>Kiara Smith dribbles in a 77-70 loss against  Alabama on Feb. 18. </p>

Kiara Smith dribbles in a 77-70 loss against Alabama on Feb. 18.

Florida women’s basketball begins the preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, this weekend and will face Towson in its first game Friday. 

The Gators started the season strong with a double-digit victory over Georgia State on Tuesday as graduate guard Kiara Smith paced Florida with 23 points. 

Florida shot at a 50% clip from the field against Georgia State, including 8-13 from Smith. The team’s offensive efficiency will be crucial against its next opponent. 

Towson will enter Friday’s game at a significant physical disadvantage compared to the Gators, but it is just as capable of scoring in bunches. 

The Tigers dropped 113 points in an exhibition on Tuesday, and six players reached double digits. Granted, their opponent, Frostburg State University, was heavily outmatched, but Towson’s explosive offense will undoubtedly be a focus for interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley’s preparation for Friday’s game.  

The Gators will play tighter defense than Frostburg State, but Towson has weapons all over the floor. Expect Finley to vary defensive sets throughout Friday’s matchup, utilizing full-court and half-court presses to make the Tigers work for their chances.

Including Florida’s exhibition game against Flagler College, the Gators have outrebounded their opponents by a margin of 41 boards, utilizing their size advantage to create second chance buckets and crash the defensive glass.

Expect the same five that started against Georgia State to lead the Gators on Friday, Smith, junior Lavender Briggs and senior Zippy Broughton in the backcourt, with senior Emanuely de Oliveira and sophomore Jordyn Merritt in the frontcourt. 

Florida takes the court against Towson on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The game can be streamed live on YouTube.

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

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