Florida Gators guard Alberte Rimdal (#5) drives the ball to the basked under pressure from FSU Seminoles guard Amaya Bonner (#24) during their game at the Stephen C. OÕConnell Center Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. (Gabriel Velasquez Neira/WRUF)

Gators Accept Bid to Inaugural WBIT

The Florida Gators women’s basketball team has accepted a bid into the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT). On Thursday, the No. 3 seed Gators (16-15, 5-11 SEC) will host St. John’s (17-14, 11-8 BIG EAST) at 7 p.m. at the O’Connell Center.

The WBIT is the NCAA’s direct counterpart of the men’s National Invitation Tournament. Similar to the NIT, the women’s tournament consists of 32 teams with early rounds being played at home for high seeds. The semifinals and championship will be played at Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University.

There is a WNIT that is operated by Triple Crown Sports instead of the NCAA. The tournament was founded in 1998, but has shrunk in size due to the creation of the officially sanctioned WBIT.

Gators Season Review

Following a successful first season capped by an NCAA tournament appearance in the 2021-22 season, UF coach Kelly Rae Finley has had limited success.

In her third season, Finley led the Gators to a 5-11 conference record for the second consecutive year. The team’s 14-14 regular season record was the worst since Finley took the helm.

Additionally, Florida lost all three games against ranked opponents.

The Gators struggled this season on the glass. Florida ranked 12th in rebounding margin in the SEC at -3.2. Part of the issue came from the absence of starting center Ra Shaya Kyle. The 6-foot-6 senior missed the last 17 games due to a left knee injury. In the fourteen games Kyle played, she averaged 12.4 points and 9.2 rebounds.

While Florida had problems with size, their dynamic guard duo of Aliyah Matharu and Leilani Correa produced a potent offense.

In her first season at UF, Matharu led the team in scoring with 18.9 points a game. Correa earned the SEC Sixth Woman of the Year award and All-SEC second team honors after averaging 17.4 points per game.

Furthermore, freshman guard Laila Reynolds was named to the All-SEC freshman team.

Preview

Florida is fresh off a successful run in the SEC Tournament. The Gators defeated Missouri then upset No. 6 seed Vanderbilt before losing in the quarterfinals to Ole Miss.

The Gators now turn their attention to the WBIT.

In 2023, the Gators won three games in the WNIT before they fell to Bowling Green State in the regional final. Finley’s group will look to make another postseason run.

About Lance Williams

Lance Williams is a first-year Economics major with a minor in Mass Communications, and an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

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