With 45 seconds left, the Gators held possession and just a one-point lead over the Dayton Fliers. After using some clock, graduate student guard Kiara Smith drove and found junior guard Lavender Briggs at the top of the key.
Briggs nailed the jumper to give Florida a three-point cushion en route to the Gators’ first signature win of the 2021 season.
Dayton missed a three on its final possession, and Florida avoided a near-collapse in the fourth quarter after leading the Fliers by double-digits for the majority of the game.
The Gators (8-3) defeated Dayton (6-3) on Wednesday afternoon 60-57 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, handing the Fliers their first road loss in 655 days.
Florida jumped out to an early lead as Briggs scored eight in the opening quarter. The Gators clicked offensively, making five of its first seven shots, but frequent turnovers surrendered the lead as Dayton rained 3s on a 11-0 run.
Suddenly, Florida tumbled on a three-minute scoring drought and into a 16-11 hole to the Fliers.
Continuing to run its offense through Briggs, the Gators recovered to trail by just two at the end of the first frame.
Early in the second, sophomore forward Floor Toonders picked up her second foul, and freshman Taliyah Wyche checked in. Wyche immediately made her presence felt in the paint, cashing in two contested layups while adding a block in her first five minutes.
A four-point Florida possession capped a 7-0 run which saw the Gators briefly reclaim the lead at 26-24.
They lost the lead again as the game paused for a scheduled timeout. After the break, however, Florida went on another sporadic scoring spree and quickly turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
The Gators took a 40-30 lead into the half after a strong second quarter. Ball movement was the decisive factor in the first half, as Florida totalled 12 assists to Dayton’s four.
Briggs led all scorers with 14, while the unselfish play of Smith, sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt and Wyche cemented the lead.
Dayton quickly halved the Gators lead in the second half, as Florida scored just two points in the first four minutes of the quarter. But the Gators recovered from their slow start to the half and brought the lead back to double figures.
The teams traded buckets to close the period as Florida maintained its double-digit lead.
Again, the Gators started slowly in the fourth, failing to score for the opening five minutes of the quarter. Suddenly, Dayton moved within one possession of re-taking the lead after Florida led for over 20 minutes.
The scoring drought continued, and the Fliers retook the lead, 55-54, with 3:11 to play in the game.
Finally, with 1:49 remaining in the game, Smith scored the Gators’ first bucket of the quarter and Florida grabbed a one-point lead.
The Gators held on, and Briggs’s jumper iced the game.
Briggs finished with 18 points to lead Florida, while Dayton’s Makira Cook led all scorers with 20.
Smith, who chased Florida’s first triple-double since 2017 for much of the game, finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
Florida takes the court next on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. from the O’Dome. The game can be streamed live through SEC Network+.
Contact Ryan Zehnder at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.