ATLANTA – It had been four games since the Florida State women’s basketball team had trailed in a fourth quarter. It had been nearly two full games since the Seminoles had trailed at all.
And yet, with 8:38 to go in the fourth quarter here at McCamish Pavilion, No. 6 FSU found itself looking up on the scoreboard at the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, unranked in the polls and winners of just two conference games this season.
But despite an uneven offensive performance – and maybe a few rumbles about just what Florida State athletics has done to draw the wrath of the city of Atlanta over the last 18 months – the Seminoles turned sharp when it mattered most and used a dominant fourth-quarter stretch as a launching point to a 69-63 victory on Thursday night.
“We started off rough, and if you were watching, you could tell,” said Shakayla Thomas, who led the Seminoles with 17 points. “I feel like the intensity we came out with in the second half was what we needed to start with. It’s a learning lesson.”
FSU held a seven-point advantage at halftime, but the Yellow Jackets outscored the Seminoles in the third quarter and then scored the first six points of the fourth to take their first lead at 50-49.
That prompted coach Sue Semrau to call timeout and recalibrate her team.
“We just needed to remind them who they were and what it took to get them here,” Semrau said. “I thought we needed to be more disciplined defensively and more in attack-mode offensively.”
That message was apparently received: After play resumed, FSU scored seven quick points – four from Chatrice White and three from Imani Wright – that sparked a 17-7 run and put the Seminoles on top for good.
Included in that stretch was a separate 7-0 run after the Yellow Jackets trimmed their deficit to three points with four minutes to go.
“I think it say a lot about our preparation, going through (late-game) situations like that, and then coming out here and being able to execute it,” said FSU guard Imani Wright, who chipped in 14 points. “I think us trusting in each other and not splintering and knowing the hard work we put in, that’s what happened tonight.”
In that light, Thursday served as a showcase for Florida State’s resolve and ability to overcome a lull in the middle of a three-game road swing.
It also provided confirmation that more difficult lessons, like the one the Seminoles were dealt in a home loss to North Carolina State earlier month, have taken hold.
In that game, FSU surrendered a fourth-quarter lead and never recovered to lose for only the second time this season.
Semrau called it, “a game where we learned a great deal.”
Evidently. Because despite some similarities between the two games – FSU shot 34.8 percent against NC State, shot 35.3 percent in the first quarter at Georgia Tech and had at least 15 turnovers in each – the Seminoles didn’t fold under the pressure Thursday night in Atlanta.
Instead, they adjusted their shooting, finishing at 45.3 percent after that slow start, and took better care of the ball in the second half. As a result, the Seminoles were in position to make those fourth-quarter plays when they had to have them.
“I think we got our lesson against NC State,” Wright said. “So we knew we had to come out in the fourth quarter and give it all we had.”
Added Semrau, “Now, it’s not really learning. It’s testing – did you really learn it? And I thought they did a great job of staying together.
“Even though we made tons of mistakes we don’t normally make, to stay together and stay positive, this was a big win for us.”