As Gator fans, Football, Men's Basketball, Baseball and even Gymnastics are always at the forefront of our minds. We wonder what big recruit Billy is going to land next, how Mike White is going to screw up this season and how deep the Gators are going to go in Omaha. But there are plenty of other Great Gator athletic programs that don't get enough support and the Women's Basketball team is at the fore front of that.
The Lady Gators are one of the biggest sleeper teams in the women's college basketball landscape this season, currently sitting at 15-5 overall and 5-2 in SEC play, the best start to a season since 2015-16. They came into the season with a new head coach, interim Kelly Rae Finley, after ex-head coach Cam Newbauer resigned this summer following allegations of both physical and mental abuse against his players and staff. Everyone thought that this team would be reeling from those incidents and the subsequent firing, but the Lady Gators have hit their stride and then some.
Led by talented grad. student guard Kiara Smith, who is averaging 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists, as well as the 6'3 sophomore forward Jordyn Merrit, who herself is averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds on 44.2% shooting from behind the arc. Behind these two, the Lady Gators have been rolling. Having won 5 straight and 9 of their last 11, including a double overtime win at 25th ranked Texas A&M, a 25 point blowout win at 23rd ranked Kentucky and a one point home victory against the 11th ranked LSU Tigers, they have established themselves as one of the most underrated teams in the nation.
With all this being said, the Lady Gators have perhaps their biggest test of all coming up, when they welcome the #1 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks to the O'Dome on Sunday. These are the type of games where good teams become great teams, where you figure out if you are the real deal or not. For the Lady gators, Sunday's game is about as big as it gets and it's not going to be an easy task.
The Gamecocks have talent all over the court, with 6'5 junior forward leading the way averaging 17.3 points, 11.5 rebounds on 56.1% shooting this year. She is accompanied by senior guard Destanni Henderson, who is averaging 11.9 points, 4.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds this year. It's going to be interesting to see how the likes of Smith and Briggs for Florida are able to do against this powerful Gamecock team and I suspect that this Lady Gator team will give them a ball game.
Now Gator fans, like I mentioned earlier, I know that women's basketball has never been exactly a big draw at the University of Florida. People don't really talk about or get excited for how the Lady Gators are looking or who they have coming up on their schedule. Most of us are worried more about how the men's team is doing this time of year or who Billy is hawking down next on the trail. But believe me, this is a team that you don't want to miss and they're going to need your support on Sunday more than ever. With the men's team struggling and many of us long turned our backs on Mike White (deservingly so, in my opinion), it's time to pack the dome and get behind the Lady Gators the rest of the way because they are going to be exciting down the stretch.
Below is the time and TV/Radio info for Sunday's game against the #1 ranked Gamecocks:
Time: 12 PM EST
TV: SEC Network
Radio: ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF