Florida guard Ariel Johnson was in transition. Florida A&M’s defense wasn’t all the way back down the court yet. But Florida forward Zada Williams was.
Johnson drew a defender towards the three-point line, which left Williams by herself in the paint. Johnson swung it to her teammate, who caught it just under the basket. She layed it up just as a straggling defender caught up to slap her on the arm mid-shot.
Count it. And one.
Those were the first two points of Williams’ dominant, career-high 22-point scoring performance in Florida’s 84-40 victory over Florida A&M on Sunday afternoon in the O’Connell Center. It was a victory to water a two-game losing drought and improved the Gators’ overall record to 5-2 on the season.
“I had no idea what she was doing until somebody on the bench said something,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “She went 11 for 13 (shooting), which is something she’s been very consistent (at)”.
But Williams did not completely dominate until later in the game. Early on, the outside shooting put the Gators ahead. A combined 4 for 8 from behind the three-point line from guards Lavender Briggs and Kiara Smith forced the Rattlers to play a more stretched out defense. And without the size to guard Williams with just one body, a career day ensued.
Briggs (17) and Johnson (14), along with Williams, accounted for 53 of UF’s 84 points. The Gators have shown through the young season that when those two guards, along with Smith — who added 10 more are shooting efficiently — and Williams can be isolated inside, Florida is difficult to defend.
Another area of strength for Williams tonight was rebounding. She collected a career-high 19 boards on her way to a double-double.
“I’ve wanted to see more out of her in rebounding, just pursuing the ball out of her area a little more,” Newbauer said. “So, for her to get 19 tonight was great, especially the offensive rebounds.”
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of her performance was the fact that she did all of this in only 25 minutes of play. She scored three fewer points than she played minutes and collected six fewer rebounds.
For the entire team, one theme stood out to Newbauer: cleanliness.
“We knew that Florida A&M was a tough, scrappy bunch that was going to attack really hard,” Newbauer said. “They’re averaging 22 free throws a game, and they only shot eight today.”
The Gators played a clean defensive game and dominated that end. FAMU only scored three points in the entire fourth quarter.
This game marked the end of a six-game homestand. A stretch in which Florida went 4-2, only losing to two top-25 teams in the country in Indiana and Florida State. The Gators will travel to Prairie View, Texas, to face Prairie View A&M on Thursday before facing Kansas the following week in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at [email protected]