STOCKTON, Calif. (Seminoles.com) –Over 2,900 miles and three time zones separate the two schools, but the respect for each other’s programs is evident.
As No. 3 seed Florida State and No. 2 seed Oregon State prepare for battle in the Sweet 16, both teams know of the challenge presented ahead.
“You have to have admiration for what Sue’s (Semrau) done, it’s unbelievable,” Beavers’ coach Scott Reuck said. “They provide a lot of challenges, and so it should be a great game.”
“We’re excited about the opportunity to step into a great match-up against Oregon State, a tremendous basketball team,” FSU coach Sue Semrau returned. “Extremely well coached. Very disciplined. Hard-nosed, work hard. Scott is a friend of mine and does a fantastic job.”
The Beavers (31-4) come into the game known for their fantastic defensive prowess. Boasting nine players at least six feet tall, OSU has plenty of size and finished sixth in the NCAA this season in field goal percentage defense (34.3%).
“Oregon State, they are known for their size. They are known for out-rebounding opponents by ten-plus,” FSU guard Brittany Brown said. “In a way, that’s what we do well, as well. That’s what we’re focusing on. Of course, defending and rebounding.”
OSU won the Pac-12 regular season title for the third straight season in 2017 and are coming off a pair of wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. After a nail-biting 58-55 win over No. 15 seed Long Beach State, the Beavers responded with a 64-52 win over No. 7 seed Creighton.
The Beavers are led by star guard Sydney Wiese who averages 15.4 points per game and shoots 44.4 percent (103-232) from behind the three-point line. The senior was named to the All-Pac 12 Team for the fourth straight season. FSU will also look to contain the inside presence of 6-5 center Marie Gulich. The junior from Germany is averaging 10.0 points and team-high 8.2 rebounds per game.
The Noles (27-6) head into the game flexing their muscles after two dominating performances over No. 14 seed Western Illinois (87-66) and No. 6 seed Missouri (77-55) last weekend in Tallahassee. FSU will look to use its athleticism and commitment to the boards to help propel them into the Elite Eight. The Seminoles did an excellent job against the Leathernecks and Tigers of winning the rebounding battle in both games.
The transition game will also be vital to FSU’s success, as the team turned 39 total turnovers into 41 points in the first two rounds. Junior, Shakayla Thomas was crucial in that category for FSU over the weekend, turning those opportunities into quick points.
Thomas averaged 21.5 points per game in the Noles’ first two tournament contests.
“I don’t know if you can completely stop her because of that athleticism, because of her drive, her ability and her skillset,” Rueck said. “She’s an incredible player, but hopefully, hopefully, we can make her really work for whatever she gets.”
At this juncture, neither team is going to stray away from who they are. Both teams have excelled in their game plans to date and have clear identities they will lean on to continue in the tournament.
It’s this clash of styles, the athleticism of FSU against the size of Oregon State, that makes for such a compelling matchup.
“I feel like our main focus is Florida State basketball. We’re just going to focus on ourselves,” Thomas said.
“Oregon State is a great team, they are going to come out there and play their game and we’re going to play our game, and it’s just going to be a great game tomorrow.”