Four games. Four ranked opponents.
Florida’s women’s basketball team is in the midst of a four-game stretch of match ups against top-25 teams. This series of tough opponents began against then-No.14 and now-No. 11 Kentucky on Sunday, in which UF lost handily 65-45 at home.
The Gators stay in Gainesville to host No. 24 Tennessee on Thursday before traveling to College Station, Texas, to play No. 12 Texas A&M. Then, they head to Fayetteville, Arkansas, a week later to face No. 23 Arkansas.
This season’s track record for Florida (11-6, 2-2 SEC) does not favor the upcoming games.
UF hasn’t beaten a ranked team this year. Indiana, Florida State, Mississippi State and Kentucky were all in the top 20 when they played the orange and blue.
They all beat the Gators by an average of 25 points.
In fact, the FSU game was the only one decided by less than 20 points (66-55). For coach Cam Newbauer’s squad to have a chance, here are three things that will need to happen.
Briggs Must Score
Freshman guard Lavender Briggs went into the Kentucky game leading the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game. Despite 33 minutes of action, she scored only two points against the Wildcats.
Upcoming opponents have too much offensive firepower for UF’s most lethal scorer to be ineffective again. Tennessee guard Rennia Davis averages 17.4 points a game, while Texas A&M guard Chennedy Carter averages 21.9. If the Gators put out a 45-point performance offensively as they did against UK, and Briggs scores in single digits, it is unlikely they have any chance to pull out wins in these games.
Turnovers Must Decrease
Florida turned the ball over 25 times against Kentucky. The Wildcats turned those into 31 points. Seven of those turnovers came from Briggs, while six came from guard Kiara Smith, UF’s other primary ball-handler.
“We got sped up too much by (Kentucky’s) defensive pressure,” Newbauer said. “And it led to not very good offensive basketball on our end.”
Rebounding Must Improve
Another killer for Florida against the Wildcats was UK’s offensive rebounds. Kentucky hauled in 19 offensive boards and turned those into 13 second-chance points. UF’s next two opponents have offenses talented enough already. Tennessee and Texas A&M average 75.3 and 72.7 points per game, respectively. It will make winning much harder on the Gators if they allow extra opportunities like that.
“Some of the box-outs that work in non-conference aren’t the same that work in-conference,” Newbauer said. “They’re longer, stronger people.”
Rebounding is a matter of toughness, and Newbauer has preached it to his team heading into this stretch of games. That must show itself more at some point to reign victorious in any of these upcoming contests.
“We stressed (toughness) before the (Kentucky) game. That was something we were going to have to have on offense and defense.” Newbauer said. “Twenty-five turnovers and 19 offensive rebounds is not toughness.”
Follow Graham on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF and contact him at [email protected].