The Florida women’s basketball team wins its season opening game at home against Georgia State on Tuesday, winning 84-70.
Gators Starts Slow
Both teams experienced early game jitters, combing for 15 turnovers and 38 percent from the field in the first quarter. Nevertheless, both teams started to settle down as the game went along.
The Panthers jumped ahead 4-0 early after two straight buckets by senior guard Ashley Foster. The Gators shot 0-4 to start the game however, junior guard Lavender Briggs splashed a three-pointer from the wing to give the Gators their first points.
The high turnover quarter was a clear sign of rust for both programs. Still, Panthers led by two, 14-12, heading into the second quarter.
Gators Force Turnovers
After a slow start in the first, interim coach Kelly Rae Finley threw a full court press at the Panthers. It actually kick started the Gator offense with a 14-2 run to start the second quarter.
The offensive and defensive surge from Florida in the second was the difference in the game as they grew a comfortable lead. Florida led as many as 20 points and their defense was the catalyst.
Finley talks about the adjustment heading into the second quarter.
The move by Kelly helped the Gators get easy buckets in transition while outscoring the Panthers 25-13 in the second.
Meanwhile, guard Kiara Smith led the Gators with 23 points and six rebounds playing a team high 34 minutes. Shooting an impressive 50 percent, the Gators held the Panthers to a mere 38 percent from the floor.
Smith says the defense for the Orange and Blue were something they focused on leading up to this match up.
Briggs, who was hot early for the Gators led the team with 11 points in the first half.
After a 12-point swing Florida finished the half strong leading 37-27.
Gators Crashes the Board
Leading all scorers, Smith, made an emphasis to get to the rim and it continued in the second half. The veteran point guard is excited to enter her final season with a win to start.
“It’s really nice. It’s good to play with them, I think that’s what makes it the best part about it, is to play with all 13 of them. Smith said. “The way that we like to play for each other and the way we celebrate each other on this team. It’s great and it’s exciting to see. It’s a good feeling for sure.”
Starting the second half pace definitely picked up for both teams. Georgia State (0-1) continued to fight answering every scoring run the Blue and Orange threw at them.
The Panthers even forced the issue with some full court pressure of their own. However, Smith and the Gators were unfazed and continued to shoot the ball well from the field.
The Panthers were outscored in the second half, 47-43.
Offensively, sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt made her presence felt as Florida recorded 14 offensive rebounds. Finley discussed the impact Merritt had on the boards.
With this victory the Gators now ties the series at five games each with Georgia State. Also, the Gators continue their hot streak during season openers improving to 8-2 in their last 10 matchups.
Moving forward, Florida looks to continue this momentum as they hit the road for the first time to participate in a tournament this weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina.