Coach Cam Newbauer accomplished something over the weekend that he’d never done before in his three seasons at Florida.
The Gators finally took down a top-25 team with him at the helm, upending then-No. 13 Kentucky after dropping 21 consecutive games to ranked opponents.
Those losses were decided by an average margin of nearly 24 points, so beating the Wildcats by eight -- a team that pummeled UF by double digits in January -- is certainly a step in the right direction for Newbauer’s squad.
Florida will look to build upon last weekend’s performance when it hosts Georgia on Sunday afternoon at the O’Connell Center. This game marks the first of two meetings between the teams during the regular season, with the second one coming in March.
The Gators (12-10, 3-6 SEC) and Bulldogs (12-10, 3-6 SEC) are evenly matched on the offensive side of the ball.
Both teams head into the conference showdown averaging 62.9 points per game through 22 contests. UGA shoots the ball at 40.6 percent from the field, and UF is close behind at 40.5.
Guard Gabby Connally leads Georgia in scoring with 12.4 points per game, but it is unclear whether she’ll be ready to take the floor come tip-off.
Connally was knocked out of her team’s 14-point loss to No. 8 Mississippi State on Monday after butting heads with an opposing player in the second quarter. The collision left Connally with a noticeable cut on her forehead, and according to Georgia coach Joni Taylor, she was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
If UGA’s leading scorer is deemed unfit to play this weekend, Florida will have to be wary of guard Maya Caldwell, who has registered double-digit points 12 times this season.
The Bulldogs boast a 7-5 record when Caldwell scores 10 or more points, so limiting her scoring opportunities will be crucial to UF’s success.
Connally (if healthy) and Caldwell will match up against Florida’s backcourt tandem of Lavender Briggs and Kiara Smith.
The main reason for the Gators’ struggles against Kentucky in the first half was the fact that both Briggs and Smith were uncharacteristically ineffective.
Briggs, UF’s leading scorer, was held without a point in the opening half. And Smith found herself in early foul trouble, which saw the Wildcats take a 29-19 lead into the break.
Things were much different in the second half, however, as Briggs posted 18 points and Smith stayed composed on the defensive end to lead Florida to a come-from-behind victory.
Sunday’s game will come down to the play of each teams’ guards, so Briggs and Smith must make a concerted effort to start quickly this time around.
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bryan_2712. Contact him at [email protected].