Lady Vols travel south to take on Florida

Lavender Briggs left the team after playing in 14 games this season and will transfer to Maryland to play next season. Briggs, a 6-1 junior guard from Provo, Utah, averaged 12.5 points per game for the Gators.

Kiara “Kiki” Smith, a 5-10 graduate student from District Heights, Maryland, is in her fourth season for the Gators after playing as a freshman in 2017-18 at ASA College in New York. Smith averages 14.7 points, 5.2 boards, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

The other four projected starters are Zipporah “Zippy” Broughton, a 5-7 senior guard from Wetumpka, Alabama, and 2021 transfer from Rutgers who averages 8.3 points and 3.4 rebounds and connects at 86% from the line; Nina Rickards, a 5-9 junior guard from Queens, New York, who averages 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds and connects at 83% from the line; Jordyn Merritt, a 6-3 sophomore forward from Plano, Texas – and All-SEC Freshman Team selection last season – who averages 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds and has connected on 23 three-pointers; and Faith Dut, a 6-4 junior forward from Vancouver, B.C., who averages 3.8 points and 1.5 rebounds and connects at 47% from the field.

As a team, Florida leads the SEC in effectiveness from the stripe at 73.3 percent. Smith is No. 9 in SEC games with an average of 2.13 steals per game and No. 12 with a free throw percentage of 74.1 percent.

Defensively, both Tennessee and Florida are near the top in field goal percentage defense in SEC games with the Lady Vols at 32.4 percent for the No. 2 slot and the Gators at 39.6 percent for No. 3. The two teams are one-two in three-point field goal percentage defense at 22 percent (Tennessee) and 22.8 percent (Florida).

Florida is led by Kelly Rae Finley, the interim head coach who took over the top job after Cam Newbauer resigned last July just six weeks after receiving a three-year contract extension. The Independent Florida Alligator, a student-led newspaper, broke the story last fall about abuse allegations against Newbauer, who went 46-71 overall and 15-47 in SEC play during four seasons at Florida. That story can be read HERE, and it went on to receive national attention.

Finley had been associate head coach at Florida since 2019 after serving as an assistant at Arizona, Colorado and Harvard and played college basketball at Colorado State University.

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