Florida women’s basketball’s remarkable season ends at hands of UCF in 2022 NCAA Tournament

By Adam Silverstein
March 19, 2022
Florida women’s basketball’s remarkable season ends at hands of UCF in 2022 NCAA Tournament
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Image Credit: GatorsWBK / Twitter

A memorable season for Florida Gators women’s basketball came to a difficult end Saturday afternoon as No. 10-seed Florida fell to the No. 7-seed UCF Knights in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Gators trailed in every quarter and ultimately fell 69-52 in their first tournament appearance since 2016.

Florida was at a significant disadvantage entering the game with redshirt senior point guard Kiara Smith and sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt sidelined. Smith was the team’s primarily ball-handler, leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder this season, while Merritt was the fourth-leading scorer and No. 3 rebounder.

Late in the second quarter, the Gators suffered another personnel loss when junior F Faith Dut appeared to suffer a high-ankle sprain. She left without putting pressure on her leg and did not return to the game.

The loss keeps Florida without a victory in NCAA Tournament play since 2014. It was the first such win for UCF in program history. The Gators entered the game holding a 26-0 all-time record against the Knights with an average margin of victory of 21.2 points in those contests.

Florida led for just 56 seconds in the contest and trailed by as many as 15 points during the first three quarters. It used a 12-2 run midway through the third quarter to cut its deficit to four, but UCF responded with an 8-0 run to end the quarter as UF went scoreless with three turnovers over the final 2:34 of the period. The Knights also cored the final six points to win by their game-high 17-point margin

Junior guard Nina Rickards led the way with 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting, while senior G Zippy Broughton added 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists but committed five costly turnovers.

Despite the tough-to-stomach conclusion, the Gators had a remarkable season under Kelly Rae Finley, who was named interim coach before the campaign only to be elevated to full-time head coach after the regular season. Florida went 5-3 against AP Top 25 teams, and at one point went 10-1 during a stretch of SEC play with its lone loss to then-No. 1 South Carolina. However, coming off that run, UF ended the season 1-4 across its last five games.

The program will surely look different entering the 2022-23 campaign with the roster set to be rebuilt significantly, but as Finley is now holding the whistle, it appears as if the future may be brighter for the Gators than it has been in years.

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