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Gators take down Tigers in OT thriller in Baton Rouge

Special to Gatorsports.com

BATON ROUGE, La. — Fueled by a combined 40 points from standouts Kiki Smith and Lavender Briggs, the Florida women's basketball team took down LSU, 73-66 in an overtime thriller Thursday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

 Both recording double-doubles, the senior Smith and the sophomore Briggs were excellent in the win, but it was a total team effort that propelled the Gators to their first win in Baton Rouge since 2016. Taking the court for the first time in 11 days, Florida received contributions up and down the lineup and outrebounded the host Tigers 43-35 on their home court.

"Resilience. You hit what you think is a game-winner right there at the buzzer," UF coach Cam Newbauer said in his return to the sidelines after sitting out the past three games in COVID-19 protocol. "Then, you gotta look at your team and tell them: 'Hey guys, we got to go to overtime.' And you're not sure until you're in that moment, but the way they fought and just stayed so resilient and stuck together.

"The big plays that were made, Danielle Rainey comes in and hits two free throws when she was sitting cold. Floor Toonders takes a huge charge. Obviously Kiki and Lav did what they did. Jordyn Merritt hits those free throws at the end. Brynn Farrell as a freshman just stepping up and making some big plays. We just made plays. Game-winning plays on the road in a game that we really wanted to win and I just love the resilience and the strength that we played with."

After it looked like Smith may have won the game for the Gators on an acrobatic, floating layup at the buzzer, her attempt was ruled no good and the game was sent to overtime. Playing in its first over time period of the season, Florida would not be denied as it outscored the Tigers 16-9 in the extra session and notched its second SEC road win.

With 48 seconds remaining and Florida clinging to a 67-66 lead, out of a timeout Briggs drained her third triple of the game, a make that would essentially seal the game for the scrappy Gators. Briggs' wouldn't let the Gators be denied as she willed them to a win with six points in overtime.

Scoring 20 or more points for the fifth time her last six games, Smith delivered with a team-best 21 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists. Briggs scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season.

Florida (10-8, 3-7 SEC) notched just its sixth win all time in Baton Rouge and first at LSU (8-9, 6-5) since 2016.

 Florida's next scheduled game is Monday at home vs. No. 20 Kentucky. It will be Florida's annual Play4Kay game at Exactech Arena. The contest will air live on the SEC Network and tips off at 7 p.m.