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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

George Mason snaps Florida’s five-game winning streak

The Patriots defeated the Gators 75-71 Wednesday night in Fairfax, Virginia

<p>Florida&#x27;s Kiara Smith pictured during a Feb. 28, 2021 game against Georgia. The senior scored 23 points and dished out eight assists in UF&#x27;s upset victory over LSU Sunday.</p>

Florida's Kiara Smith pictured during a Feb. 28, 2021 game against Georgia. The senior scored 23 points and dished out eight assists in UF's upset victory over LSU Sunday.

George Mason’s Amaya Scott held the ball at the top of the arc, her team leading by just three points with two minutes to play. She kicked the ball out to Tamia Lawhorne on her right, who briefly hesitated before draining a dagger from deep to ice the game. Scott added a layup on the next possession for good measure. 

Florida made some clutch shots to apply the pressure down the stretch, but the Patriots went seven-for-eight from the line in the final minute. Despite the Gators’ best efforts, George Mason held on to the lead and finished out the game.

Florida (6-3) fell to George Mason (6-3) Wednesday night 75-71 in Fairfax, Virginia. The Patriots successfully snapped the Gators’ five-game winning streak with their win, and Scott led all scorers with 25 points.

The Gators jumped out to an early lead in the first. Florida’s backcourt trio of junior Lavender Briggs, graduate student Kiara Smith and junior Nina Rickards led the offense in the opening period. The three guards scored 11 points between them, and the Gators led all quarter. 

But Scott single handedly ensured the game didn't get away from her Patriots. Her eight points in the first kept George Mason within range before Jordan Wakefield’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer shortened Florida’s lead to three by quarter’s end.

Florida stretched the lead to as much as seven in the second quarter after freshman Alberte Rimdal’s 3-pointer made the score 22-15. But just two possessions later, the Patriots brought the lead back to one score behind a Lawhorne three and Scott’s sixth bucket of the night.

After George Mason ripped off an 8-0 run to take its first lead of the night in the second quarter, the Gators and Patriots traded buckets for a moment before another 5-0 Patriots run put Florida in a four point halftime hole, 33-29. After winning the first quarter 15-12, Florida was outscored 21-14 in the second.

Sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt and Smith led Florida with seven points each while Scott led all scorers with 15.

The game was reminiscent of Florida’s first loss of the season against Towson, when Aleah Nelson bullied the Gators to the tune of 39 points. While Nelson was unstoppable with the ball, George Mason’s Scott drew defenders for much of the contest, freeing up her teammates for open shots.

Florida retook the lead after five minutes in the third quarter, 41-39. The Patriots quickly retook the lead on its next two possessions. 

Scott’s 15 first-half points built George Mason’s lead, but her teammates maintained it. Lawhorne and Wakefield had combined to hit four 3s and totaled 19 points. But Florida refused to go away. 

The two teams went back and forth all quarter, but the Patriots held the 51-48 advantage with 10 minutes to play.

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Briggs hit a three to bring the game back to one score with a minute remaining, and Rickards hit two free throws on the Gators’ next possession to bring the deficit to just one point. 

George Mason hit two foul shots to stretch its lead back to three before Florida took a timeout with just 40 seconds remaining. 

The Patriots only missed one shot from the charity stripe in the final minute and salted the game away.

Scott finished with 25 points to lead all scorers, adding eight rebounds and two steals. Smith stuffed the stat sheet once again with 19 points, four boards, four assists and two steals.

Briggs finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.

Florida will finish its road trip against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. The game can be streamed live through ESPN+

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

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