Florida senior guard Nina Rickards found herself open late in the fourth quarter and calmly drilled a 3-pointer to give her 23 points and extend the Gators’ lead. Rickards was on fire throughout the game and dropped a season-high.
Rickards played a huge role in Florida’s offensive explosion. Wake Forest struggled to keep up with the Gators’ shooting in the fourth quarter and found themselves down by 20 quickly.
The Florida Gators (18-14, 5-11 SEC) defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (17-17, 5-13 ACC) 80-63 Monday night in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Gators move on to the Super 16, while Wake Forest’s season comes to an end.
The Gators’ 3-point shooting paved the way offensively. The team shot 12-25 from deep and went 7-14 in the first half. Rickards went 3-3 from deep en route to a season-high 25 point performance.
Florida sophomore forward Jeriah Warren drilled a catch-and-shoot triple to open the scoring. She hit a mid-range shot on the following possession.
Senior Gators forward Faith Dut nailed another mid-range shot for Florida to extend the early lead to seven. Wake Forest junior guard Jewel Spear hit a jumper of her own to get the Deacons on the board.
Rickards pulled up and hit a jump shot. Spear responded with a spot-up 3-pointer to tie the game at nine.
Wake Forest sophomore guard Elise Williams hit a contested layup to give the Demon Deacons their first lead of the game. Spear hit two of her three free throws, and the Gators trailed 15-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Rickards drilled a three off of an assist from UF senior guard KK Deans to open the second-quarter scoring.
Sophomore Gators guard Alberte Rimdal sank a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer on a fast-break. Deans followed the triple with a three of her own on the following possession to put the Gators up 20-15.
Senior Deacons forward Olivia Summiel hit a 3-pointer for the first Wake Forest basket of the second quarter. Rimdal responded with a three-point shot of her own.
Florida junior forward Jordyn Merritt hit another three to balloon the Gators’ lead to ten. Summiel then hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Florida’s lead down to 28-24.
Deans continued Florida’s 3-point barrage and banked in a deep triple. Rimdal took a hard foul and converted both free throws to send the Gators into halftime up 33-24.
Rickards faked out her defender and nailed a pull-up mid-range shot for the first points of the second half. She then hit a layup on the following possession.
Senior Deacons guard Alexandria Scruggs hit a heavily contested layup. Warren grabbed an offensive rebound and banked in the second-chance layup. Rickards hit another mid-range jumper to extend the Gators’ lead to nine.
Wake Forest turned the ball over. Deans then banked in a contested layup through a foul and converted the three-point play to put the Gators up 46-34.
Spear hit back-to-back layups to bring Wake Forest within single digits. She then hit a pull-up triple for her third straight basket and forced Florida to call a timeout.
Rickards answered the Deacons’ 8-0 run with a triple from the top of the key. She then drove strong to the basket and finished a layup over her defender for the final points of the third quarter. Dut rejected a Wake Forest shot at the buzzer to preserve the nine-point Florida lead to close the quarter.
Rickards drilled a mid-range jumper to open the fourth quarter scoring for the Gators. Merritt hit a spot-up 3-pointer to extend Florida’s lead to 56-43. Spear hit a 3-pointer off a second-chance opportunity.
Wake Forest senior guard Kaia Harrison hit a layup through a foul. Rickards sank her third 3-pointer of the game. Merritt hit another three of her own to push the Gators’ lead to 18 late in the fourth quarter.
Spear hit a triple out of a Deacon timeout to cut into the Florida lead. Senior Gators guard Leilani Correra drilled a late 3-pointer to add to Florida’s 22-point lead. The Gators handled business from the free throw line down the stretch and took the victory 80-63.
Florida awaits the winner of the matchup between Auburn and Clemson to determine its next opponent in the Super 16 of the WNIT.
Contact Austin Stirling at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @austinstirlingg.
Austin Stirling is a third-year journalism major and sports reporter for The Alligator. He previously covered Gators women's basketball and is primarily covering soccer during the fall 2023 semester. He is a huge New York sports fan and is hoping the Jets can be a respectable football team for once in his life this season.