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Photo Courtesy of the University Athletic Association

Gators women’s basketball set to face off against No. 7 Mississippi State

Florida women’s hoops will be facing one of their toughest tests of the season starting on Thursday at 7 p.m.

UF will be hosting Mississippi State, the 7th-ranked team in the nation, in the first of back-to-back home games.  The Gators come into this SEC matchup with a 5-13 record, while the Bulldogs are an impressive 17-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play.

A victory against MSU would give Florida their second conference win of the year and improve their home record to 6-4.

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Last time on the court

The previous game the Gators played was relatively close and ended with some clutch free throws by the Ole Miss Rebels.

Although Florida fell short 76-66, there were a lot of positives that head coach Cameron Newbauer and his group took away from the loss.

Anytime the team trailed and it seemed like it was out of reach, they were able to claw their way back into the game. Leading scorer Funda Nakkasoglu knocked down four triples on her way to scoring 21 points, which was the eighth time she has scored at least 20 points this season.

Danielle Rainey, who had to sit out the fall semester because of her transfer from TCU, connected on four of her seven seven shots to give her 15 total points. This marked the fourth SEC matchup where Rainey has scored at least eight points.

Behind Rainey’s contributions and Zada Williams’ 10 points, Florida also held a significant advantage in bench points over Ole Miss:

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A well-oiled machine

MSU is hoping to bring their high-powered offense to Gainesville on Thursday.

The Bulldogs are averaging nearly 91 points per game and are knocking down just over 50 percent of their field goal attempts. As a team, they are also making 38 percent of their three-pointers and they average 18.1 assists a contest. The Gators, on the other hand, put up just 62 points a game on 37 percent overall shooting and 31 percent from behind the arc.

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Florida’s opponent is looking to keep up their offensive production without Chloe Bibby, who is out for the season with a left knee injury. Bibby is MSU’s fourth-leading scorer and has connected on 45 percent of her three-point attempts.

The Bulldogs can also play very well defensively, which will be tough the Gators to score and rebound against. MSU allows only 57 points per game, forces 20.2 turnovers a game and collects 46.2 boards per contest as well. They also have 164 total steals and 118 total blocks on the season as well.

UF will have a tough challenge in front of them, but their biggest advantage will be that they are at home. The Gators are 5-4 at the O’Connell Center and have been competitive even in their losses.

Upcoming schedule

After Florida’s game against MSU, the team will have 10 conference matchups left on the schedule before the SEC tournament begins.

On Sunday, the Gators will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks, who are currently 14-5 on the season. This will be the team’s last time playing at the O’Dome until Feb. 7 as they will be heading on a two-game road trip.

Thursday’s game between Florida and Mississippi State can be heard on ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM.

About Joseph Hastings

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