Florida guard Kiara Smith (1) calls out the play during an NCAA basketball game against Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Newbauer, Gator Women’s Basketball return to action against LSU

The Florida Gators women’s basketball team hasn’t played a game in 11 days. And the last time head coach Cam Newbauer led his team onto the floor was 18 days ago. Both return to the hardwood tonight.

Florida travels to Baton Rouge to battle the LSU Tigers with a 7 p.m. tipoff. The Gators are 9-8 but have been reeling: they’ve lost seven of their last nine and two straight games.

Newbauer steps back in

Coach Newbauer is finally back with the team. The fourth-year coach missed the Gators’ last three games due to health and safety protocols. Associate head coach Kelly Rae Finley filled in as acting head coach during his absence.

https://twitter.com/camnew/status/1358800942146203648

Over those three games, Florida went 1-2. Following a road win against Ole Miss, the Gators suffered back-to-back losses against Missouri and Tennessee.

Then, the Gators had their Feb. 4 matchup with Vanderbilt canceled because the Commodores canceled the remainder of its season due to ongoing struggles with COVID-19. So, Florida hasn’t played since Jan. 31. But that means the team will be plenty rested for its clash with LSU.

Recent struggles a result of poor conference, road form

Florida ripped off six straight wins to finish 7-1 in an eight-game non-conference slate to kick off the 2020-21 campaign. As soon as conference action began though, the Gators suffered five straight losses.

It’s no surprise that the Gators’ recent downward trend began with the start of SEC play. Florida last recorded a winning record in SEC play during the 2015-16 season.

Also, despite being one game above .500, the Gators are 2-5 on the road. To find Florida’s last season with more away wins than losses, one would also have to go back to 2015-16.

Fortunately for Newbauer’s squad, three of the final four regular season contests are at home. Plus, the Gators did manage to handle Ole Miss in Oxford for one of the team’s two conference victories.

Taming the Tigers

Tonight marks the 45th all-time meeting between Florida and LSU women’s basketball. The Tigers won both contests last season and knocked the Gators out of the SEC tournament in the second one.

LSU is 8-8 overall with a 6-4 conference record, the latter of which is far better than Florida’s. The Tigers are led by Khayla Pointer and Faustine Aifuwa. Pointer leads LSU with 15.8 points per game and 4.3 assists per game. Meanwhile, Aifuwa hauls in 8.8 boards per game.

On the other side, it should be an enticing matchup between Pointer and Florida’s Kiki Smith. They are two of the conference’s most prolific point guards in terms of scoring, passing and steals.

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