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FLORIDA – GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Southeastern Conference women’s basketball writer Kelly Rae Finley has been awarded SEC Coach of the Year by a group of six journalists that work for USA Today Sports Network and write about the conference.
Finley served as interim head coach at the University of Florida for the 2021-22 season, guiding the team to a 20-win season for the first time since the 2015-16 season and the 16th time in the program’s history. The Orange and Blue also won 10 Southeastern Conference games under her direction, which was just the fourth time in the program’s storied history.
Gaining entry into the SEC Tournament as a fifth-seed, and facing five ranked opponents in a row for the first time since the 2005-06 season, including five nationally-ranked opponents in the SEC for the first time since 2004. When Florida upset No. 7 Tennessee, they did it by their widest margin of victory against a top-10 team since the AP Poll first began in 1976. The Lady Vols suffered their worst loss over an unranked club since the AP Poll first began in 1976 when they were defeated by Florida.
The team’s highest scorer this season, graduate Kiara Smith, has improved under her continuing guidance, averaging 14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.4 steals per game while also leading the team in rebounding. While playing in the SEC, the District Heights, Md., native put up 17.4 points per game on the strength of 6.1 boards, 5.1 assists, and 2.3 steals a game, which helped her win First Team All-SEC and All-Defensive Team honors. Additionally, freshman Alberte Rimdal was chosen to the SEC All-Freshman Team, joining Smith on the list.