Ridaught: Catching Fire

Basketball
Basketball

Who is the hottest team in Alachua County right now?

Is it the Santa Fe College men’s basketball team? The Saints have won seven of their last eight games under head coach Chris Mowry. 

Santa Fe (20-5, 8-3) rallied from 17 points down on Wednesday to beat Daytona State College, 78-73, on the road in a Central Conference game.

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Is it the Newberry boys basketball team?

The Panthers, who are ranked No. 1 in the state according to MaxPreps, have won six of their last seven under coach Patrick Green. 

Newberry (19-5) will play for the Class 1A-District 7 title tonight against Trenton.

Is it the Florida men’s basketball team?

The Gators (16-8) have won four in a row under head coach Mike White to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. 

They moved above .500 in the SEC (6-5) with a 72-63 home win against Georgia on Wednesday night. Florida has a huge game on Saturday at No. 5 Kentucky.

Those teams are playing well. But it’s not the hottest team in Alachua County.

That distinction belongs to the Florida women’s basketball team.

The Gators have won eight of their last nine, including wins against nationally-ranked Georgia (#14/11) on the road, Tennessee (#7), LSU (#11/10), at Kentucky (#23/22) and at Texas A&M. 

Their five-game SEC winning streak was the longest in 13 years. The only loss during that stretch was by single digits to No. 1 South Carolina, a game in which UF rallied from a 19-3 first quarter deficit to make it close.

The dominating 84-59 win against Tennessee may have been the biggest eye opener considering the fact that the Lady Vols had only lost to the Gators four times in 54 all-time meetings. Florida snapped a six-game losing streak to Tennessee.

They just beat Mississippi State on the road for the first time since 2013. Florida (18-6, 8-3) has eight SEC wins for the first time since 2015-16.

On Monday, Florida cracked the top 20 for the first time since 2016. The No. 19 Gators are one of five SEC teams in the national rankings.

Two players are averaging double figures in points, led by graduate student Kiara Smith at 14.8 points per game. Smith, who is second on the team with 5.5 rebounds per game, has scored 19 points or more in six of the last nine games.

Sophomore Jordyn Merritt (10.5 ppg) scored 16 and 17 points against LSU and Texas A&M, respectively.

We will have to see how the season plays out but it might be time to remove the interim tag from coach Kelly Rae Finley

Finley is certainly a candidate for SEC Coach of the Year.

The SEC Tournament will be in Nashville (March 2-6), followed by the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in mid-March.

 

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