GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Veteran point guard Kiara Smith dropped 23 points on Tuesday evening to help Florida women’s basketball to a season-opening victory over Sun Belt-foe, Georgia State, 84-70.
The Gators are 8-2 in their last 10 season-openers, including three-consecutive season-opening victories.
Smith was one of four Gators (1-0, 0-0 SEC) to finish in double-digit scoring as LaVender Briggs (16), Jordyn Merritt (15) and Nina Rickards (11) all contributed at least 10 points. For the game, Florida finished a steady 29-of-58 (50%) from the floor.
Smith’s 23 points mark her best season-opening offensive debut and second-straight season-opener with at least 20.
The UF-GSU series is now tied at five with Florida winning the previous three matchups.
Controlled the rebounding battle for the second time in as many games, outrebounding GSU 44-29. Briggs led the way with seven rebounds while Smith and Merritt each added six of their own. Offensively on the interior, Florida ended with a 42-34 advantage in points in the paint.
Smith’s and Briggs’ 39 points is the most by a Florida duo in a season-opener since Jennifer George and Jordan Jones combined for 38 on Nov. 11, 2009 against Stetson – a game in which Florida won 85-63.
Briggs now holds 802 points, just 198 away from being the 27th-member of the 1000-point club.
Smith owns 1,092 career points, just six away from moving into 23rd all-time in school history.
The Panthers (0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) pushed the Blue and Orange early, jumping out to a 6-3 lead and holding the Gators to just 1-of-8 shooting from behind the arc, eventually leading the home squad, 14-12, at the end of one.After the Georgia State lead was extended to 16-13 early in the second frame, the Gators locked-in to take control of the game. A 17-2 run, spurred by seven points from Briggs and six from Merritt, opened the game up at 30-18. Defensively, UF forced seven second quarter turnovers in addition to six steals of their own, while recording just three turnovers themselves. For the game, Florida tallied 12 steals while forcing 20 turnovers. Georgia State would not go away in the second half, answering every Florida run that was thrown at them. After trailing 62-47 at the end of the third, the opposition started the fourth on a 5-0 run to pull within 10 points. Smith put an end to the run, slicing through the lane for a contested layup, ensuring that was the closest the Panthers would get. Smith’s layup would spark a 12-2 run, pushing the Gator lead to 20 with 5:09 remaining before holding on for an 84-70 victory. A key to the second half success came from the bench contribution for the Gators. Recording just three points in the first half, the Florida bench ended the game with 25 points, led by nine from Faith Dut who was an efficient 4-of-6 from the floor. Florida will be back in action on Friday, Nov. 12, when they head to Raleigh, N.C., for the Preseason WNIT to take on Towson at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Florida Gators Athletics-Andrew Hile assisted with game recap