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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Florida earns 800th program win in defensive battle against Texas A&M

Gators outscore Aggies 36-14 in the paint to find first conference win

<p>Florida center Ra Shaya Kyle puts up a shot in the Gators&#x27; win over the Florida A&amp;M Rattlers Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.</p>

Florida center Ra Shaya Kyle puts up a shot in the Gators' win over the Florida A&M Rattlers Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.

Despite shooting just 40% from the field, the Florida Gators’ strong defense earned them their first win of the new year and their 800th win in program history.

Florida (12-3, 1-1 SEC) held off the Texas A&M Aggies (5-7, 0-2 SEC) in a defensive battle to win its first Southeastern Conference game of the season. The Gators outscored the Aggies 36-14 in the paint, dominating the interior throughout the game.

The Gators’ inauspicious start on the offensive end saw them miss their first six shots of the game. Sophomore guard Alberte Rimdal got Florida started when she blew by her defender and finished the layup at the rim.

Both teams struggled to make shots in the first quarter. The two squads combined to shoot just 4-22 in the opening six minutes of action.

Florida junior center Ra Shaya Kyle made a layup to get the offense back on track. Then, strong defensive pressure led to a steal and easy basket in transition for freshman guard Myka Perry.

With the shot clock turned off and the final seconds of the opening period ticking away, the Gators called on Kyle again. She converted on a quick post up attempt to give Florida a 10-8 lead to start the second quarter.

The Aggies retook the lead three minutes into the second quarter on a layup attempt from junior guard Saharah Jones. After the Gators tied the game, Jones hit the first 3-pointer by either team to restore the Texas A&M lead.

Sophomore guard Jeriah Warren answered for Florida, converting her shot through contact and completing the three-point play at the free-throw line.

The Gators went into halftime nursing a 27-22 lead after senior guard Nina Rickards drove to the basket and finished inside. Despite shooting just 13-31 from the field in the opening half, Florida dominated the inside, outscoring the Aggies 24-6 in the paint.

Florida’s defense continued to swarm in the second half. It forced an early steal that led to a pair of free throws for Kyle on the other end. 

Despite the strong defensive effort, the Gators continued to struggle offensively. They only made one of their first six shot attempts from the field in the third quarter.

Texas A&M sophomore guard Eriny Kindred beat her defender and banked in a 2-point jump shot to pull the Aggies within one point with under five minutes to play in the period. After a Florida basket, Kindred tied the game with a corner three .

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Graduate student forward Aaliyah Patty hit another three for Texas A&M on the next possession to give the Aggies a 36-33 lead going into the fourth quarter. The reeling Gators offense shot just 1-10 in the third quarter and 0-9 from beyond the arc in the first three quarters.

Florida quickly went to work and tied the game in the opening stages of the fourth quarter. Rickards scored an early basket in transition. Kyle made another shot from the post to tie the game at 37.

After another Aggie triple, the Gators made their first 3-pointer of the game. Rimdal hit a corner three after a long skip pass from senior guard KK Deans.

Florida’s defense — its strength all afternoon — dominated in the final quarter. The Gators held the Aggies without a field goal for over five minutes, allowing the struggling Florida offense to build a multiple-possession lead.

With under two minutes to play, Rimdal ripped another triple from the left wing to give the Gators a seven-point lead. After a Texas A&M bucket and a Florida turnover, the Aggies made a layup on the other end, cutting the lead to three.

Deans drained a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left to restore the Gators’ five-point advantage. Florida’s defense held firm on the other end, and a pair of free throws by Rickards put the game away.

The Gators will stay on the road as they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to face the No. 24 Arkansas Razorbacks. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. He also covered Florida football lacrosse for the paper and loves to follow MLS soccer and professional lacrosse.

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