UF overcomes Bama’s three-point barrage on Senior Day

19 minutes ago
Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There was no shortage of offense between Florida women’s basketball and Alabama on senior day, with the Gators surviving a second-half three-point barrage by the Crimson Tide for an 81-77 victory inside Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Thursday.

KK Deans put together one of the best performances of the season on her senior night, ending with 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a 4-of-5 effort from three-point range and 8-of-8 at the charity stripe, in addition to three rebounds, three steals and two assists. Ra Shaya Kyle (14), Leilani Correa (12) and Nina Rickards (11) all ended in double-figures for the Gators (15-13, 4-11 SEC).

As a team, Florida shot 24-of-58 (41.4%) from the field and 7-of-15 (46.7%) from long range, while Alabama (20-8, 9-6 SEC) shot 25-of-47 (53.2%) from the floor and 12-of-18 (66.7%) from three-point range. In the second half alone, the Crimson Tide went 10-of-12 from behind the arc. Brittany Davis led the opposition with 16 points and eight rebounds.

The Gators didn’t make life easy on Alabama, forcing the visitors into 20 turnovers that resulted in nine steals for the Orange & Blue. Deans and Jeriah Warren each swiped-away three to lead UF, who ended with 19 points off turnovers.

Florida also managed to control the glass on Thursday evening, taking a 35-30 edge over the Crimson Tide that included 16 offensive rebounds while limiting the opposition to just six, which resulted in an 18-3 difference in points in the paint. Kyle led the way with seven rebounds, while Rickards pulled-down five of her own.

The bench was also instrumental in the senior night victory, outscoring Alabama 31-12 over the 40 minutes.

Both teams didn’t have any trouble finding an offensive rhythm to start the game, with Florida connecting on 4-of-5 from the floor and Alabama starting 2-of-3, including a 4-for-4 effort from the charity stripe, in the opening four minutes. Heading into the media timeout, the teams found themselves knotted at 12, helped by a pair of triples from Correa and Deans.

The Gators made the most of the media break in the opening frame, closing the quarter on a 12-1 run to take a 24-13 lead into the second. Florida’s defense allowed just eight shots from the Crimson Tide while forcing five turnovers in the first 10 minutes.

Offense continued to roll for the Orange & Blue into the second quarter using a 7-0 run, that was capped-off by a baseline jumper from Alberte Rimdal with 7:11 remaining, to force an Alabama timeout and extend their lead to 33-17. An efficient first half that saw the Gators end shooting 17-of-32 (53.1%) gave UF a 45-30 lead heading into halftime.

A key component to the Orange & Blue’s first half success, the Gators connected on 4-of-6 from deep, including a perfect 3-of-3 effort for Deans who led all scorers with 13 points. Florida also made the Crimson Tide uncomfortable, forcing 11 turnovers that resulted in 10 points.

The Crimson Tide quickly closed the gap to start the second half, using three-straight triples, which resulted in a 9-2 run, to make it an eight-point game with 7:43 on the clock. After fending-off the first Alabama outburst, the Crimson Tide again pushed the Gators with another run, this time 7-0, to make it 54-50 with 49 seconds left in the third. A crucial triple as the clock expired from Rimdal helped Florida reclaim a seven-point advantage, 59-52, leading into the final quarter of action.

Neither team was able to able to gain a leg-up in through the beginning five minutes of the final frame, battling to an even 12-12 stalemate, giving Florida the 71-64 advantage with 5:07 left in the game. A free throw from Kyle with under four remaining pushed Florida’s lead to nine, but an 11-2 response from the opposition saw the game tied at 75 with just 2:26 showing on the clock.

Leading by just one point with 2:08 left, Nina Rickards helped UF put the nail in the coffin by escaping on an inbounds play for an open layup to push Florida’s lead to three late in the game. Kyle then, with ice in her veins, knocked-down two free throws with 28 seconds left to again make it a three-point game with 21 second left before the Gators survived with an 81-77 victory.

Up Next

The Gators will conclude the regular season on Sunday, Feb. 26, when they head to Columbia, Mo., for a 3 p.m. ET matchup with the Tigers on SEC Network+.

Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley

On the importance of the fast start…
“It’s very important. They lead the league in three-point shooting percentage and they’re 12th in the country. They shot the lights out of that ball in the third and fourth quarter. Eighty percent and 85.7% in the second half, that’s crazy, but we were determined. We focused a lot on having our hands up and our active feet and really just trusting that we’re fast enough to be in two places almost simultaneously. When we start to trust each other and trust our foot speed, we’re a very good defensive team.”

On what KK Deans has brought to the team…
“She’s brought so many things, just in who she is. She’s a fighter and I’ll tell a little story. When we were recruiting KK, it was really important to me that we were honest with her. It was really important to me that she understood that she could fill a hole that we needed to fill on our roster, but that if it wasn’t good timing for her to come back off her ACL, that she would not be playing at the beginning of the year. It was really important, and I think her mom and I saw eye to eye on that. KK was like ‘nah, I’m hearing you but whatever.’ She’s played since the start of the season. Now, she missed the offseason, which is why I think you can see her starting to be able to see the game slower, to understand. Our system is a little bit different, how we do things here is just a little bit different, and it can be different in a really positive good way.”

On what Nina and Faith have meant to the program…
“Nina and Faith have meant so much to this program. They could’ve made a lot of different choices at any time probably to choose themselves over this program, and never once did they do that, and I admire them for that. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of just who they are, what they bring, and what they stand for. They’ve no doubt made this program better. We were talking a little bit before the game, coach CJ always says there’s levels and we’ve been talking about we gotta level up. When I look at those two, they’ve helped this program level up in so many ways.”

Senior Guard KK Deans

On Thursday’s performance…
It was a great team win with great team effort and great team defense. That’s what Gators basketball is. We haven’t seen it in a while, but game-after-game it got better and better. Once we hit South Carolina to the games after, we locked-in. If we lock-in for the rest of the season, good things happen.”

On how she saw the floor…
“My team made great screens, had great backdoors that opened-up space and I just took what the defense gave me. When they backed-off I shot it, when they were up, I passed it. It was just the flow of the game.”

On her favorite memory in the O’Dome…
“Honestly our doubleheader at the beginning of the year. The crowd was just a great energy. I think the men were playing after us, but in the third and fourth quarter everyone was engaged and we had this type of energy that made me step back and be like, ‘wow, okay. This is what Gator Nation is going to bring.’ That’s probably my favorite moment, but when we’re playing good, they’re all great moments.”


  • Florida draws within two in the all-time series, 33-31, but now holds a 17-9 advantage over Alabama in Gainesville.
  • Thursday’s victory guarantees a winning record in the regular season for Florida.
  • This win marks the first time that the Gators have claimed back-to-back winning regular seasons since the 2012-13 and 2013-14 campaigns. 
  • With 36 wins, Florida boasts their largest two-season win total since the 2016 and 2017 seasons. 
  • Nina Rickards continues to close-in on 1,000-career points, now holding 962. 
  • KK Deans knocked-down four triples, pushing her to 13th in the Florida record book for most threes in a single season with 64.
  • With 45 points in the first half, Florida recorded their best offensive outing of the season in the opening 20 minutes. 
  • Deans was one free throw off of her career-best, ending a perfect 8-for-8. 
  • Jeriah Warren matched a career-best effort with three steals.