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Gators tame Tigers to secure first SEC win

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida's Kiki Smith notched her third double-double of the season and fourth in her career. Sunday marked the third time this season she has had 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds in a game.

The Florida women's basketball team defeated Auburn 68-54 for its first SEC win of the season Sunday at Exactech Arena and halt a five-game losing streak.

"It was our best day because it was our first conference win," UF coach  Cam Newbauer said. "We got the stops when we had to have them. It's been a long time coming for us."

Lavender Briggs and Kiki Smith delivered yet again for the Gators (8-6, 1-5 SEC), combining to score 40 points.

"Kiki Smith continues to be Kiki Smith," Newbauer said. "Such high motor and high energy and just impact the game in so many ways. Had a number of steals that really sparked our offense."

Collecting her third double-double of the season, Smith registered 22 points, 13 rebounds, five steals and four assists. The senior established a career high with her 13 boards.

After her record-setting performance at Arkansas on Thursday, Briggs followed up with 18 points and three assists against the Tigers (5-7, 0-4), as she scored 15 or more points for the 11 consecutive game.

Holding its opponent below its season scoring average for the fourth consecutive game, Florida limited Auburn to just 27.9 percent shooting from the floor, the lowest field goal percentage it has allowed to an opponent all season.

Florida blitzed Auburn out of the gates, outscoring it 21-8 in the first quarter and never looked back as it held off a series of runs from the Tigers.

"We came out very aggressively from a defensive standpoint," Newbauer said. "That was our main focus today. That sparked most of our offense today. We needed that today."

The Gators held the upper hand as they never trailed in the game and led by as many as 18. Returning home after a pair of road matchups, UF shot 42.4 percent from the floor and connected on seven 3-pointers.

Auburn, which saw its last two games postponed due to the impact of COVID-19, was led by All-SEC forward Unique Thompson who tallied 14 points and 14 rebounds.

UPDATED: Florida was scheduled to play at Vanderbilt on Thursday. The game was originally scheduled for Dec. 31 but postponed until Thursday due to the impact of COVID-19. On Monday, due to a combination of COVID-19 related circumstances, opt-outs and injuries, Vanderbilt has elected not to continue the remainder of the 2020-21 season.