January 22, 2021 

‘We got the stops’: Inside Florida’s first SEC win

Gamecocks remain unbeaten, Vandy cancels season and more

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The University of Florida lands its first conference victory; Vanderbilt shuts down the season, and South Carolina unveils a tribute to one of its greatest players. We take a look at these headlines and more in this week’s look around the SEC.

For The First Time

The University of Florida women’s basketball team won the battle of two teams still looking for their first conference win as they defeated Auburn on Sunday afternoon, 68-54.

“It was our best day because it was our first conference win. We got the stops when we had to have them,” said Head Coach Cam Newbauer. “To hold them to 28% [FG%] and 17% [3 PT%] is phenomenal. Overall, it’s a win. It’s been a long time coming for us.”

The Gators flew out of the gate on a mission, ending the first quarter 21-8 and never looking back. Florida’s dynamic duo of Lavender Briggs and Kiki Smith combined to score 40 points in the win.

Smith finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds (career high), five steals and four assists for her third double-double of the season. Briggs finished with 18 points and three assists against the Tigers as she scored 15 or more points for the 11-straight time.

Florida will now have some extra days to prepare for its next game. They were scheduled to travel to Vanderbilt for a Thursday afternoon matchup but Vandy announced this week it was canceling its season. 

The game, originally slated for Dec. 31, was postponed due to a combination of positive tests, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Vanderbilt program, but had been rescheduled for this Thursday in Nashville.

The Gators and Commodores were scheduled to meet again on Feb. 4 in Gainesville and that game will not be played as well. All games against Vanderbilt will be marked as no contests and have no bearing on final SEC standings.

Florida’s next scheduled game is this Sunday at Ole Miss.

SEC Player of the Week

After scoring a league-best 41 points at No. 17 Arkansas and helping lead Florida to its first SEC win vs. Auburn, guard Lavender Briggs was named SEC Player of the Week. 

Briggs scored a career-high 41 points at Arkansas last Thursday, the most scored by an SEC player this season. She had the fourth-most points in a single game in program history and the most ever by any UF sophomore. She also had a career-best 17 field goals including a career-high six 3-pointers.

Becoming just the fourth player in NCAA Division I this season to score 40 or more points, the 6-foot-1 guard recorded 16 points in the fourth quarter in Fayetteville and added 18 more points in the Gator’s win over Auburn which was its first SEC victory. 

Briggs, a Utah native and preseason All-SEC Second Team pick, averaged 29.5 points for the week and through six SEC games she is putting up 23.2 points per game. She has scored 15 or more points in 11-straight games overall and ranks top five in the conference in scoring.

This marks the Gators’ first SEC Player of the Week honor since Jan. 23, 2018 when Haley Lorenzen won the honor.

Gamecocks keep SEC win streak alive

The No. 4 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks continued their winning ways with a 104-82 victory over Arkansas on Monday night, then topped Georgia, 62-50. The Gamecocks are a perfect 6-0 in SEC play (11-1) overall. 

Sophomore Aliyah Boston continued putting up big numbers – scoring 26 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks for her fifth double-double of the season on Monday. On Thursday she went one better, with South Carolina’s first triple-double in SEC play.

”She wants to make her own legacy at South Carolina,” Dawn Staley said. ”I think she’s pretty special.”

Staley said the Gamecocks have grown as the season has continued. The difference, she said, is accepting roles to make everyone better.

”I’m pleased and encouraged that we’re moving to having an identity on defense and moving toward a balance on offense,” Staley said. ”That’s a good place to be.”

The 104 points scored Monday was the Gamecocks’ second-highest total in SEC play in program history, only behind the 106 points scored last week at Vanderbilt.

Speaking of the Gamecocks, one of its most famous players, WNBA star A’ja Wilson, had a statue of her unveiled on Monday in a live ceremony. The bronze statue,  The bronze statue — which stands over 11 feet tall and sits atop a four-foot granite base — is one of just three on the University of South Carolina campus that represents a specific individual.

Vandy Ends Season

A day after its 80-73 loss to the University of Kentucky Wildcats — a game in which they had only seven available student-athletes — Vanderbilt became the first SEC school to shut down it’s season due, in part, to Covid-19

 Sophomore Koi Love’s 32 points were a game high while senior Chelsie Hall added 24 points, falling two points short of matching her career high of 26 set Dec. 21, 2017, against Belmont. Yaubryon Chambers also matched her career best with 10 points on 5-of-8 from the floor. She led the team in rebounds, finishing one board short of her first double-double.

Vanderbilt finished the 2020-21 season 4-4 overall and 0-3 against SEC opponents. 

Run It Back

A week after defeating previously undefeated Texas A&M, the LSU women’s basketball team used an early 23-9 run and defense to defeat the Missouri Tigers at home Monday night, 66-64 for their second consecutive SEC win. 

“It was a big win for us. You know, we’ve been in a lot of different situations this year. I told them in the SEC, no one’s going to just give up,” said Head Coach Nikki Fargas. “I’m really proud of our team in the effort that it took to come on the road and beat a very good Missouri team who offensively was putting up almost 80 points a game. 

With that win, LSU moves to .500 on the season (6-6), 4-2 in SEC play. Missouri fell to 5-4 on the season and 1-3 in the SEC.

Senior Khayla Pointer scored 22 points and added three rebounds and three assists. Redshirt-senior Faustine Aifuwa had 12 points, eight rebounds and an assist.  Sophomore Tiara Young finished with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench. 

Alabama Falls to Lady Vols

Alabama struggled to find its offensive rhythm, shooting 34.5 percent from the floor, in Sunday’s 82-56 loss to No. 23/24 Tennessee. The Crimson Tide now stands at 11-2 overall and 4-2 in Southeastern Conference action, while the Lady Volunteers move to 9-2 on the season and 3-1 in league play.

“We got beat by a very good Tennessee team today,” said Alabama Head Coach Kristy Curry. “We just have to regroup, let that go at midnight, have short-term memory and stay positive. We know that in the SEC, you have good days and bad days. It’s all in how you handle both.”

Jordan Lewis led all scorers for the second game in a row with 22 points, while Jasmine Walker recorded her eighth double-double of the season with 17 points and a game-best 12 rebounds.

Alabama hosts Auburn for the first of two games against the Tigers this season on Sunday, Jan. 24. The game will tip at 1 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

Written by Dorothy Gentry

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