TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Whatever adjustments Shakayla Thomas has made at halftime the past two games, it has ended up working for Florida State.
The junior forward scored 18 of her season-high 24 points during the second half and had a couple big plays during a key fourth-period run to help No. 7 Florida State beat No. 9 Louisville 72-65 on Thursday night.
“I thought she worked really hard,” said Florida State coach Sue Semrau of Thomas. “In the first half we didn’t get it much inside. Credit the guards who set the screens to get her open.”
Thomas has three 20-point games this season. In last Sunday’s win against No. 12 Duke , 16 of her 22 points came after halftime.
“I don’t know what it is. I guess it is more of the flow of the game,” Thomas said about her second-half performances the past two games.
The Cardinals led 63-60 with 3:54 remaining before the Seminoles scored nine straight points to take control. Thomas scored the first four points during the run, including a pair of free throws with 2:12 remaining to give Florida State (16-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) the lead for good.
Imani Wright, who added 13 points, then hit a 3-pointer to put the Seminoles up by more than a possession with 1:39 left. Louisville, which shot 22 of 58 from the field, was held without a field goal over the final 3:54.
“When you give up nine straight points that is normally a backbreaker,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We handled some adversity but we’ve got to be able to put games away.”
Asia Durr led the Cardinals (15-4, 3-2) with 21 points, including 10 in the third period as it rallied back from a 32-25 halftime deficit. Durr had four points during a 9-0 run as they took a four-point lead (59-55) midway through the fourth. Mariya Moore added 15.
POST-GAME NOTES BY FSU SPORTS INFORMATION:
• Florida State’s key sequence in the game was the 9-0 run that lasted 2 minutes and 53 seconds late in the fourth. In that run, Shakayla Thomas scored four points and Leticia Romero capped it with two free throws with one minute left.
• Senior guard Brittany Brown became Florida State’s all-time steals leader with 7:58 left in the second period, recording her 276th career steal from Louisville’s Myisha Hines-Allen. Brown passed Florida State standout Alicia “Ice” Gladden (2003-07), who had 275. Brown now has 279 career steals.
• With 38 seconds left in the first period, Brown’s 3-point field goal allowed her to join the 1,000-point club at FSU, the 34th in Seminole history.
• Brown had another stat-stuffing performance, recording 12 points, a season-high 11 rebounds, seven assists and a season-high tying six steals.
• Thomas poured in a season-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 18 on 7-of-10 shooting in the second half. It is Thomas’ 11th career 20-point game, her third of the season and her second straight. It is the first time in Thomas’ career she has posted back-to-back 20-point games.
• FSU totaled four double-figure scorers, including Thomas (24), redshirt junior guard Imani Wright (14), Brown (12) and senior point guard Leticia Romero (11).
• Wright has made two or more 3-point field goals in six of her last seven games, including 10 over her last three games.
• For the third consecutive game, junior center Chatrice White recorded four blocked shots.
• FSU out-rebounded Louisville for the 16th time in 18 games this season, holding a close 37-34 edge.
• After holding Duke All-ACC performer Rebecca Greenwell without a field goal on Sunday, FSU did a good job defensively vs. reigning and preseason ACC Player of the Year Myisha Hines-Allen. The junior forward recorded just four points (1-of-9) in 19 minutes, tied for her third-lowest total this season.
• Florida State and Louisville’s Top 10 matchup was the first of its kind in the Donald L. Tucker Center for women’s basketball.
• FSU improves to 5-1 this season against AP Top 25 teams. Its five AP Top 25 wins is tied for the second most nationally with Baylor and trails only UConn (8).
• Florida State is now 4-1 all-time in AP Top 10 matchups. Overall, the Seminoles own 13 AP Top 10 wins after Thursday’s victory over No. 9 Louisville.
FLORIDA STATE HEAD COACH SUE SEMRAU
“They are a heck of a basketball team. We just beat a really, really good basketball team. The battle, the toughness, the runs. I think we’re a pretty good basketball team too. These guys played 35, 36 minutes, battled. And I’m just extremely proud of my team. This kid over here [Brittany Brown] she’s just a thief. I think she had 5 steals early and they were huge. And this kid [Shakayla Thomas]…wow. I don’t usually play her 35 minutes and she was guarding a guard, she took a charge, she’s doing everything now. It’s not just about scoring the basketball. It’s a great team win led by some amazing young women.”
About Shakayla scoring big in the second half and putting the team on her back
“I thought she worked extremely hard. In the first half, we didn’t get the ball inside except for offensive rebounds and it was very physical inside. We even talked about what we do as far as getting the ball deeper in the post. Credit the kids who set the screens to get her open. The guards who made the passes and I just thank God for her mom and dad and the genes that they gave her.”
What did you tell the team with five minutes left after losing the lead to push the team to get the win?
“The really good thing about our practices is we’ve been practicing where we get two offensive possessions and one defensive possession, I mean we have one defensive possession and we have to get a stop and we have to win. We can’t tie. We’ve got to win. They’ve been practicing that way. They’ve been practicing with the mentality that the defense is going to win the basketball game for us. And it did. Bottom line, there was a lot of time left. Five minutes is a ton of time. Ask these guys [Shakayla Thomas and Brittany Brown] at three minutes they were gassed. That’s a lot of time and for them to just continue to fight through was what they’ve been showing us in practice.”
Speak on the defensive effort tonight
“That’s really where they’ve bought in and they really do believe that and rebounding is their bread and butter. Louisville is leading our league, in the conference in rebounding and we out-rebounded them tonight and that a lot of people working extremely hard. They’ve also been a team that’s fun to coach because we can switch things up and we’re extremely athletic. Thought they tried to attack Chatrice a lot, but she found a way to contribute in a big way. We found a way to keep her on the floor, running some things differently defensively. They really lock in.”
Resiliency of the team where Louisville never had a lead over 4 points
“I just love that. That’s basketball. This was a big time basketball game. This was a top 10 matchup and it wasn’t going to be a pushover either way. So you’ve got to match mentality; you’ve got to match toughness. This is a team that showed us that they could do that.”
Winning because you had plenty of stretches of adversity?
“Yeah, well let me just talk to you about what I talked to the team about. Let’s go back to Christmas. We went on the road, beat number 11 team, rival Miami. Came up and had a tough game against NC State, put them in the top 25- we need as many teams as we can in the ACC in the top 25 so I thought we could do that. And then, go on the road, Carolina, and have a big win up there. We were a little fragile at that point. Come back and have a big win against Duke, I mean a large margin and then to turn around, I mean these are not easy stretches and so knowing what they had just done for a long stretch, that’s impressive to me as a coach.”
Doesn’t ease up though?
“It never eases up in the ACC. Ever. It’s not going to be a top 10 match up. We have had, I mean every team that we play has just been… wow and Clemson, don’t get me wrong, they are much improved. I don’t think they’ve lost a game in the non-conference but maybe one. And that was to South Carolina. So we know that. I also have a team that’s about business and I trust them. They’re going to learn something from this and go take care of business.”
Three wins straight since loss to NC State, did you view that loss as a wakeup call?
“We had a friend who came in and talked to us and she said ‘we need to wake up and stay woke.’ It’s hard to tell a team that’s a wakeup call. It just shakes your confidence. But they went back to what they do. Real confidence comes from doing the right thing as well. They’ve done that in practice and in the games subsequently.”
How big was Shakayla taking the charge to lead to the win?
“Shakayla had never taken a charge before this year and I think she’s now second on our team to Ivey. That’s growth and she took one against Duke and they didn’t call it. And for her to step up, that was really really big.”
What will you have to do to make sure you win the upcoming conference games?
“What’s it going to take? More of the same. This is a team that I believe in, I believe they’re locked in, and I trust them. When you trust a team and trust the veterans, it’s fun to coach. And we’re not going to be satisfied. I mean we didn’t do everything perfect tonight by any stretch. We only shot the ball 38 percent. We’ve got lots we can get better at.”
Any upcoming games that can shake you up?
“Clemson. I’m telling you. Clemson. All of them. Every game in the ACC. You ask anybody. You ask anybody.”
Each time there was momentum, they would get a three to get it back. Was that because they were locked in?
“Well, they have a great three point shooting team. They made great adjustments. When we would switch, and they really could understand the switch and they would toss back and then she would hit a deep three. They made great adjustments. I thought our kids never let it happen twice. With whatever defense we were in, they never let the same thing happen twice, and I credit their focus for that.”
SENIOR GUARD BRITTANY BROWN
How have you gotten to this point where you’re just doing a little of everything on the floor?
“Just doing whatever my team needs me to do to allow us to win. I think any given night it could be anybody – it could be Shakyla, it could be Mani, it could be Ivey – so I’m just doing whatever they need me to do to allow us a win.”
“What do you mean how did she get to this point? She’s been doing it for her entire career. That’s the thing I love about Brittany, she never is going to just be the kid that wants to score. She does all the little things. You don’t become the all-time leader in steals because you take it easy. She’s been our leading assist player for the entire season – just all the little things. That’s what I’ve seen her model for other players on our team.”
JUNIOR FORWARD SHAKAYLA THOMAS
This is the second game in a row where you really turned it on in the second half. Is something being said to you at halftime or is it just a mode you get into?
“Honestly I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know what happened in the second half but I kind of figured stuff like that happens all the time. I just go out there and play. I just play with my teammates and go with the flow. I go out there and do what I can for the team.”
When you guys lost that lead, how was it mentally to lock down and continue to score in order to get that win?
“The only thing that was going through my mind was what can I do to help my team? I didn’t really feed off of any negative energy. I was constantly talking whether it was on offense or defense and doing anything I could to help.”
When you took that charge you were pretty pumped up. How big was that moment and how important was it for the game?
“We needed that momentum. When I took it, I probably blacked out, I don’t know what happened after that. I just know I opened my eyes and my teammates were all over me. I felt like at that moment we were like, I’m not losing at home, so that really changed everything.”
LOUISVILLE HEAD COACH JEFF WALZ
Coach that 9-0 run in the fourth quarter, how back-breaking was that since in the end that really could’ve been the difference?
“Well I mean when you give up nine straight it’s normally a back-breaker, especially toward the end of the game when you don’t have any more time left. So, I’d say that’s an excellent statement. I was proud of our kids; I thought we fought. I thought we handled some adversity at the beginning of the game. They did a really nice job. Give Florida State credit. We’re up four and we get a stop. And then we give up an offensive rebound and then we just, our baseline out of bounds and defense is as bad as I’ve ever seen. Starting off the year we were as good as I’ve ever seen. I mean we weren’t even allowing people to get the ball in bounds, were turning over. We were really good. And now starting conference play we’re giving up throughout the first five games here teams are scoring on us 50 percent of the time on out of bounds and that’s just awful. It’s an embarrassment. It’s not that we don’t know what’s coming, we’re reacting and this is a game you can’t react. You have to be the one dictating what they’re going to do. And unfortunately we stay and we watch and somebody cuts in front of us, goes baseline and you know. That’s where we got hurt. When they scored on those back to back baseline out of bounds plays.”
Shakayla Thomas, 18 points in the second half, what was she doing that was really…
“Scoring. She put the ball in the basket. You know she attacked the offensive glass. She came up with a few big boards there and converted them. She wanted the basketball. Just thought she really was just a difference maker for them.”
Jeff, last two game you guys have been not turning over the ball, 19 turnovers.
“We were really good today turning over. We turned it over a lot. We were very good at that.”
Was it their defense?
“No, we didn’t follow through well with things we’ve worked on all year. You know when you drive don’t pick the ball up. Retreat dribble. Keep your dribble alive. We picked it up. Just careless passes. Jus things that we’ve worked on, we know what to do. Like I told our kids in our locker room, I was proud of our physical effort. I thought our physical effort was pretty darn good. Our mental effort is what we have to fix. When we get a little bit tired then all of a sudden we get sloppy. And those are the things you can’t allow to have happen. You have to be mentally strong even when you’re physically a little bit tired. And that’s what we’re working on. We’re 15-4 right now. Up four with 4 and a half to go right here. Up two at home against Maryland with three and a half to go. Up five against duke in the fourth quarter. We’ve had great opportunities. We got our butts kicked by South Carolina but I mean the other three, we have the lead in the fourth quarter. You’ve got to be able to put games away. We give up offensive boards, which turn into a put back. Then layups on baseline out of bounds. Things that you just can’t do. You have to make teams earn it. And we didn’t do a very good job at that toward the end of the game.”
Coach Jazmine Jones tonight obviously a homecoming for her. Averaged more points and more minutes, just talk about her performance tonight.
“I thought Jaz played well. You know it’s not just for tonight, she played 22 minutes. She’s been practicing well. And that’s kind of the hardest thing for a freshman to understand. You know it’s not high school, you can’t just show up and think you’re going to play on game day if you’re not practicing. But she’s really embraced it, really been practicing well. I thought she played well. On Sunday when we played Pitt she played well. She played well at Virginia. So she’s starting to put games together and that’s what we need. We need consistency. Our biggest problem right now is that we have not had, well I think people would consider our biggest three to be Myisha, Mariya and Asia, all play well the same night. Not great just good. Tonight was a bad game for Myisha. It’s normally been that way. So we have to continue to work to get it. When we can get to a stretch when those three are good. Not great, they don’t even need to be great, just good. Then all of a sudden we’re difficult to guard. Because then you throw Jaz in there. Cortnee gets the offensive glass. Puts some put backs in. we’re much deeper. That’s kind of our problem right now. We need to get those three fired up at the same time now.”
Jeff it seemed like Asia really brought you back in the third quarter, plus she got some time to make threes at a great time.
“She played well. I thought she played within herself. She had four assists tonight. Coming into the game I think she had 24 or 25 for the entire season and I just kept challenging her. To be as good as you are you just have to get some assist during games. You‘ve got to be able to draw some defenders and make your teammates better. And I thought she did that tonight. And when she does that it’s pretty hard to guard because she is very explosive, she’s able to put the ball into the basket. She’s a very talented player. But we’re going to continue to need that from her.”
You talk about mental toughness and you guys played a very good non-conference schedule. In a conference with six ranked teams, there’s no nights off.
“No there’s not and that’s okay. Flight home tonight, you’ve got Friday, Saturday and you play on Sunday. And that’s plenty of time. And you’re playing good teams and that’s what you want to do. That’s why they came to Louisville. To play in the ACC. We’ve got the best conference in women’s basketball top to bottom. There’s no question about it. You look at what Virginia Tech is doing. Look what Miami’s doing. You look what NC State’s doing. I mean they beat Notre Dame and then came down here and won. That’s pretty darn impressive. If you don’t show up you are going to lose. There’s no question about it. It does not matter who you play.”
LOUISVILLE PLAYERS JAZMINE JONES AND ASIA DURR:
Start with Jazmine, I know not really the result you wanted. Was it good to be back in Tallahassee and play in front of some familiar faces?
“Yeah it was awesome. I love playing here. Of course it was my hometown, I was born and raised here. So coming home to play in front of familiar faces and fans, it was awesome.”
Was it cool to see some of the girls from Florida A&M Developmental and to have their support?
“Yeah it was awesome. My high school coach texted me earlier today, said we’ll be out there today. They actually had a game earlier today so they came right after and it was awesome for their support.”
Personally you had a pretty good game, just higher than the team average for most minutes and points. Was it something really about Florida State that you just really wanted to go out and get this win today?
“Yeah it was kind of personal but then again it was my teammates giving me the ball telling me to keep shooting, attack, be aggressive and coach saying always in my ear be aggressive.”
Is this the game that you kind of had circled on your calendar, I can’t wait to go home I can’t wait to play in Tallahassee?
“Yes, somewhat. We got to treat it like any other game. We have to focus on it like any other game. We have a long season ahead of us and we have to stay focused and try to win every game ahead.”
For BOTH PLAYERS, can you guys talk about the kind of competition level in the ACC? Night in and night out it just seems like it’s always going to be a tough game in the ACC.
“(Asia) Oh definitely. We have six teams ranked in the top 25. Everything game is going to be a battle. And I think that’s what we have to bring to practice. We have to fight hard. I think we played hard. We had a few breakdowns as well. But we’re going to sit back and watch the film and see what we could do better.”
Asia just in the fourth quarter when you had that run, was it a couple breakdowns or…
“It was. We had a few breakdowns where we were supposed to switch and we didn’t. and one of those plays it was my fault so I take the blame. So we just have to watch film and see what we could do to better ourselves. You know you can’t get too down about this loss. We gave another great team on Sunday. You just have to keep fighting hard and you have to make the changes as well.”
Only six turnovers in the last game and 19 tonight, was it their defense?
“(Asia) Mental. They’re a great ball club as well. We have to take care of the ball. Coach Walz tells us every day in practice, turnovers – you will not win with those. So we just have to do a better job with taking care of the ball and we just have to focus more as well.”