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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Gators women’s basketball set to begin conference play

Checking in on the state of the Southeastern Conference as SEC play looms

<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.

As the calendar flips over to the new year, the Florida women’s basketball team will have to buckle up for a tough second half of the season. With the Gators having concluded their non-conference slate of the schedule, they now turn their attention to their Southeastern Conference foes in 2024.

Florida fared well through its first 12 games of the season, stringing together a 9-3 overall record and a 4-1 record at home. 

UF has already seen breakout stars in the 2023-24 campaign. Senior guard Aliyah Matharu has led the Gators with 19.0 points per game, including six games with at least 20 points. Meanwhile, senior center Ra Shaya Kyle has been a dominant force down low, tallying 13.3 PPG, 10.1 rebounds per game and 0.8 blocks per game. 

Freshman guard Laila Reynolds has helped the Gators' rotation as well. Having started in all but one game so far this season, Reynolds is currently averaging 9.7 PPG, shooting 55.4% from the field. She also averages 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. 

Rounding out Florida’s starting lineup, senior guard Leilani Correa and forward Faith Dut have served as valuable leaders for this year’s squad. Dut leads the team with 1.1 blocks per game and ranks second in field goal percentage. She has shot 58.5% from the field, only trailing Kyle’s 59.1%. Conversely, Correa has proved to be a threat outside of the paint, tallying up 13.3 points and 2.3 assists per game.

The Gators have also received strong contributions off of the bench this season. Junior guard Alberte Rimdal has served as the team’s go-to bench player, ranking third on the team in minutes per game with 26.8. Rimdal has subsequently averaged 9.1 points per game on 43.4% from the field and 35.0% from 3-point range. 

Junior guard Jerriah Warren has also served as a reliable reserve for Florida, racking up 4.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

Despite their early success in the 2023-24 campaign, the Gators have their work cut out for them in a conference that currently has zero teams with a record below .500. 

The No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks currently lead the way in the SEC with a record of 12-0. Coming off of an undefeated regular season in 2022-23, the Gamecocks appear hungry to avenge their loss in last year’s NCAA Tournament. 

Senior center Kamila Cardoso and sophomore guard Raven Johnson have led the charge for South Carolina, so far. Cardoso leads the team with 13.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while Johnson has chipped in with team-highs in assists (5.9 per game) and steals (2.5 per game).

The Gators will have to deal with the duo Thursday, when they welcome the Gamecocks to open SEC play. 

The defending champion LSU Tigers sit right behind the Gamecocks in the standings with a 13-1 record. No. 7 LSU has endured its share of struggles through the first half of the season. The team suffered an opening night loss to the Colorado Buffaloes, while superstar forward Angel Reese missed multiple games due to “locker room” issues.

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Nevertheless, the Tigers have since steadied their ship and appear to be right back on track. Since their opening night loss, they have recorded 13 consecutive wins, including an 18-point victory over the now-No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies. 

Reese has also since returned in dominant fashion, averaging 19.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. Junior guard Aneesah Morrow has served as a reliable second option, putting up 18.4 points, 9.5 assists and 2.9 steals per game.

While South Carolina and LSU remain the teams to beat in the SEC, Florida has stiff competition lurking behind them. Both Vanderbilt and Texas A&M received votes in the latest Associated Press Poll, but neither squad managed to crack the Top 25. With conference play right around the corner, however, that could change in the blink of an eye.

Rounding out the remainder of the conference, the Gators are currently 10th in the SEC standings due to their overall record. In addition to the four teams mentioned above, Florida sits behind the Alabama Crimson Tide, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Auburn Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks and Ole Miss Rebels. 

The competition in the SEC continues to be strong, and Florida will open its SEC slate with a matchup against the No. 1 Gamecocks. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and will be broadcast on the SEC network. 

Contact Jack Meyer at Follow him on X @jackmeyerUF.

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Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In his free time, he enjoys running, spending time with friends, playing video games, and watching the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins.

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