Sunday’s 64-56 loss at the hands of Auburn raises an interesting question about the Florida Gators women’s basketball team: Who can the team turn to when its two leading scorers, Funda Nakkasoglu and Delicia Washington, aren’t at the top of their games?
The Florida women’s basketball team needed big performances from its two leading-scorers in …
That was the case on Sunday, when the two guards combined for just 14 points. The 4-11 Gators did well to make it a game against the 13-2 Tigers, but with Nakkasoglu and Washington struggling, the team lacked the firepower needed to pull off the upset. The loss highlighted Florida’s need for a player who can step up when the team is desperate.
Perhaps the most obvious candidate is the team’s third-leading scorer, forward Zada Williams. The redshirt junior has played well lately, scoring double-digit points in five of the last eight games after doing it just twice in the first seven games. Williams is averaging 9.1 points per game, but with more playing time (she’s currently averaging about 24 minutes a game), it’s not hard to envision her as a more prolific scorer.
Another player to look out for is Kiara Smith, Florida’s leading scorer against Auburn. The 5-foot-10 guard has proven her ability to play well when her teammates struggle – she scored 14 against Indiana when Nakkasoglu scored just five, and scored a season-high 15 on Sunday. She’s still only a sophomore with room to grow, but with just four games this year in double-digits, she could benefit from a bit more consistency in scoring.
Smith leads the team with 50 assists and is second on the team with 33.0 minutes per game.
Perhaps the two most intriguing candidates are two freshmen. Nakkasoglu is a redshirt senior, and the Gators will have to replace her team-leading 18.2 points per game next year. Guard Ariel Johnson is a bit of a wild card, but she has shown an ability to be lethal from beyond the arc in limited opportunities this year. Johnson is second on the team behind Nakkasoglu with 21 threes despite only playing the sixth most minutes.
Nakkasoglu’s Australian compatriot Kristina Moore has also shown flashes of scoring prowess this year. The forward has an affinity for the three-ball, and is fourth on the team with 12 three-pointers this season. Moore is the only player to have started all 15 games this year, and coach Cam Newbauer’s continued faith in her means that she should have more opportunities to shine going forward.
Of course, transfers and freshmen can easily change the dynamic of the team next year. For Florida to improve this year, however, it needs to get more production from the supporting cast. Nakkasoglu and Washington can only carry the team so far.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano and contact him at [email protected].