Florida’s women’s basketball team was engaged in a back-and-forth battle with Grambling State on Tuesday night.
After 18 lead changes and six ties, UF forward Zada Williams knocked down a jumper with 9:06 left in the fourth quarter to spark a 13-2 run.
That dominant stretch propelled the Gators to a 72-65 victory over Grambling State in the season opener at the Hobdy Assembly Center in Grambling, Louisiana.
“We knew this would be a tough game in a road environment with a team that scraps and really competes with you,” coach Cam Newbauer said in a release after the win. “That’s one reason why we really wanted to play a game like this, is to get tested.”
Florida (1-0) started off cold, shooting a measly 24 percent from the field in the first quarter. The Gators were getting open looks, with the Tigers (0-1) daring them to shoot from outside, but UF had trouble converting those into points.
The orange and blue adjusted its gameplan after falling behind 13-10 after the first 10 minutes of action.
Instead of settling for jumpers, Florida fed center Emer Nichols inside the paint. Her back-to-the-basket style of play worked in her favor against the smaller Grambling State defenders tasked with keeping the 6-foot-5 center in check.
The redshirt sophomore, who played in her first regular season game for the Gators after sitting out the entire 2018-19 season following her transfer from Texas A&M, finished the contest with six points and five rebounds.
UF guard Kiara Smith tied for a team-high 16 points, but she also played a crucial role in the rebounding department. The 5-foot-10 redshirt junior made up for her lack of size with intuition. She stayed outside of the paint, predicting where the ball was going to bounce, and put herself in position to snag nine boards.
Grambling State held on to a 31-30 lead heading into halftime and maintained that one-point advantage at the end of the third quarter (52-51).
But UF outscored the Tigers 21-13 in the fourth to put the game out of reach and clinch its first win of the season.
“We had a lot of people miss shots uncharacteristically early on,” Newbauer said. “But we kept our eyes on the rim, kept shooting, stayed the course and got the job done.”
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bryan_2712. Contact him at [email protected]