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Mar 4, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Janee Thompson (3) defends Florida Gators guard/forward Eleanna Christinaki (21) in the third quarter during the women's SEC basketball tournament at Jacksonville Memorial Veterans Arena. Kentucky won 92-69. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

No.23 Florida Women’s Basketball Ready for In-State Showdown with No.7 FSU

Florida is very familiar with Florida State in women’s basketball. The two teams have squared off 72 times, the most the Gators have faced any school. But for the first time in their long history, they face each other as ranked teams.

No.23 Florida (6-2) is in Tallahassee to take on a tough FSU (8-1) squad that’s riding a seven-game win streak. The Seminoles only loss comes in an impressively narrow 78-76 loss to four-time champion UConn. The Gators, meanwhile, are trying to bounce back against a 69-63 collapse against No.24 Arizona State.

Series History

The Gators hold a comfortable 42-30 all-time edge over the ‘Noles, but in the 21st century, it’s been all Garnet and Gold. FSU has won nine of the last 13 games. If it’s any consolation though, an unranked Florida team stunned a No.7 FSU team in Gainesville last season. However when the Orange and Blue are in Tallahassee, they sport a 13-16 record. Paired with a 9-20 record against other ranked teams on the road when Florida itself is ranked, scoring a ‘W’ is a hefty challenge.

“It’s an opportunity to get out there and actually play for my teammates,” senior Ronni Williams said. “I don’t get too hype or too low about it, but it’s a big game.”

Shouldering The Burden

If Florida wants to repeat an upset, it’s up to three individuals to perform at a high level.

  • Eleanna Christinaki, a sophomore, is perhaps the team’s most dynamic player. With a stat-stuffing average line of 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists, she can just as easily nail a three pointer as she can deftly pass the ball to an open teammate.
  • Junior Haley Lorenzen has been working on extending her shot instead of being confined under the basket. She’s making progress and has seen a rise in production. She’s averaging 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds.
  • If the other two can’t get it going, it falls once again to Williams to carry her team. In her first two seasons, it was Williams and Co. Now that she has more help around her, she’s been able to develop other facets of her game outside of her scoring. She’s averaging a career-best 8.6 rebounds to go with 15.4 points per game. Williams had 21 points and 10 rebounds is last year’s win.

In all but one of UF’s eight games, one of the above three has been the team’s leading scorer.

FSU Threats

The Seminoles primary threat is forward Shakayla Thomas. She averages a team-leading 14.7 points per game with 6 rebounds per game, also a team-high. While they don’t have one primary scorer like UF’s Christinaki, they rely on spreading the offense. Three other players (Leticia Romero, Imani Wright and Ivey Slaughter) average double-digit points per game.

The chance at redemption is a big motivator for the Seminoles tonight.

“Considering last year we lost to them, I feel like this is a great chance for us to redeem ourselves,” Thomas said to Madison.com. “We have a great team this year with a whole bunch of depth. I’m excited.”

Tip off is at 6 p.m. Live coverage can be heard on 98.1 FM.

About Eddy Almaguer

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