Feb. 19, 2009
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Last time out, Florida State’s Jacinta Monroe felt like she let her team down even though she was hampered by a sore shoulder. Thursday night, she ignored the lingering pain and played one of the best games of her career.
Monroe scored a career-best 24 points and had nine rebounds to lead the No. 11 Seminoles to a 75-58 win over Clemson. The win kept Florida State (22-5, 10-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) a game up on Maryland and Duke for first place in the ACC with three games to go as the Seminoles try to win a league title for the first time since joining the conference 18 years ago.
Monroe’s sore shoulder limited her to just five points in 23 minutes against North Carolina, and she had scored a combined 23 points in her last three games. On Thursday, the junior made nine of her 12 shots from the field and 6 of 11 free throws for 24 points in 26 minutes. She also blocked a shot, tying the school record for blocked shots in a career at 209.
“My team has done a great job of stepping up for me, because I wasn’t really showing up,” Monroe said. “But this game I was focused on being there for my team.”
This has been a breakthrough season for the Seminoles. When coach Sue Semrau took over in 1997, Florida State was coming off an 0-16 season. Since the ACC expanded five seasons ago, the Seminoles have finished no worse than fifth, and they tied a school record on Thursday with their 10th ACC win. The No. 11 ranking is the highest ever for the team.
But Semrau is taking extra care to make sure her team isn’t overwhelmed with the prospect of at least a share of the ACC title if the Seminoles can win two of their last three. “This team doesn’t even know they are in first place,” she said.
Florida State breezed to a 26-point win when the teams played in January. But the Lady Tigers (13-14, 2-10) kept it closer this time.
Clemson opened the second half with a jumper by Thomas that cut Florida State’s lead to 35-32. But the Seminoles responded with nine straight points from Monroe and Mara Freshour. They also forced turnovers on six of the Lady Tigers’ next seven possessions.
Clemson stopped the run briefly, but Freshour and Alysha Harvin hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 17-4 run that put the game away.
Semrau said she told her team at halftime to go harder for the loose balls and tighten up the zone. Lady Tigers coach Cristy McKinney said she can’t figure out what happened to her team in the locker room.
“We just came out kind of flat,” McKinney said, shaking her head. “I wish I knew, I wish I knew.”
Lele Hardy had 21 points and eight rebounds and Sthefany Thomas added 12 points for Clemson, which will have to win two of its last three to finish over .500 for the first time in five seasons. The Lady Tigers are just a game out of last place in the ACC.
Tanae Davis-Cain scored 13 points and Harvin added 10 points and eight rebounds for Florida State.
The other big difference Thursday night came at the foul line. After missing four 3-pointers in the first five minutes, the Seminoles started pounding the ball inside, and Clemson couldn’t stop fouling. Florida State shot 34 free throws to just 14 foul shots for the Lady Tigers, picking up 15 extra points from the line. At one point in the second half, Monroe was fouled by Thomas immediately after sinking a foul shot.
McKinney said her team was at fault for the big disparity.
“We want it to be easy, so we just reach and grab instead of move our feet,” she said. “That’s been a problem all year long.”
Florida State finishes the season with Miami, Virginia and Wake Forest and has already beaten the Cavaliers and Hurricanes this season. Three wins, and the Seminoles win the league title outright. Two, and they can do no worse than share the league crown.
But Monroe said Florida State isn’t concentrating on where it is now.
“We’re not letting all the success we’ve been having get to our heads because once you get boastful, it slips from under you,” Monroe said.
And Semrau has no plans to let her team see the ACC standings any time soon.
“After the season is over,” the coach said, “we’ll just tell them what seed they are in the tournament.”
FORWARD Jacinta Monroe:
On the improvement of her sore shoulder – “I have just been trying to get better every day. I came out tonight against Clemson trying to not let me shoulder be a factor.”
On beating Clemson for a second time this season – “Our coaches just told us to stay focused the entire time and remember what we did the last time we played them. They just told us to concentrate on every play.”
HEAD COACH Sue Semrau:
On Monroe tying Brooke Wycoff’s all-time blocks record at 209 – “Brooke was such a special player and she has continued to play well in the WNBA. To have a player like Jacinta is so special too. Jacinta does so much that changes things for us on both ends of the court.”
ONE BOARD AWAY FROM ANOTHER DOUBLE-DOUBLE
Jacinta Monroe finished with nine rebounds to go along with her career-high 24 points and was so close to another staggering statistic. If she had secured one more rebound, Monroe would have achieved the 16th double-double of her career and eighth of the season.
FOUR IN DOUBLE FIGURES
Jacinta Monroe, Mara Freshour, Tanae Davis-Cain and Alysha Harvin all scored in double figures against Clemson, marking the 13th time this season that FSU has had at least four players score 10 points or more in a game. The Seminoles are 10-3 overall when that many players hit the double-digit scoring mark.
ONLY ONE MORE TO GO
By defeating Clemson in its own gym, FSU moved to a perfect 9-0 in true road games this season. The Seminoles have never finished undefeated in road games during the season and have just one more to go before the ACC Tournament. FSU travels to play at Wake Forest on March 1 to close out the regular season.
THIRD LOWEST 3-PT PERCENTAGE OF YEAR
Florida State’s 25 percent shooting from 3-point range against Clemson was its third lowest of the season. Against UNF, FSU shot just 21.4 percent in the win and was just 22.2 percent from long range when the team lost to Florida.