TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sue Semrau tried to keep it cool, tried her best to remind her team that Thursday night’s game was just like any other.
But that’s not so easy when the Florida Gators are in town.
“I had a hard time with that,” Semrau said.
The Seminoles, however, made it look easy.
Paced by five players in double-figures and a double-double from senior forward Ivey Slaughter, No. 7 Florida State cruised to an 83-58 win over the 23rd-ranked Gators.
It was the fourth-largest win over UF in school history. And safe to say the most satisfying of FSU’s nine wins this season.
“I wish I could say that I expected this,” Semrau said. “Any time you have a rivalry game, it’s going to be a battle. I expected us to go out and battle. But I didn’t know how long and hard that these guys that play so many minutes would do that. So, I’m just really proud of them.”
“Battle” is sometimes an overused word in sports, but it felt appropriate Thursday night.
For a team that scored 83 points, the Seminoles didn’t play especially well on offense.
They shot just 40.3 percent from the field – nearly nine points below their season average – made only 6 of 18 3-point attempts and turned the ball over 18 times.
But it didn’t matter. Because, thanks to a tough, suffocating defense, FSU never let the Gators get within any real striking distance.
Florida’s Ronni Williams scored 20 points, but no other Gator had more than nine. UF as a team connected on 40.7 percent of its shots, but made just 3 of 11 from beyond the arc.
FSU also parlayed 27 UF turnovers into 25 points and held a heavy (45-35) rebounding advantage.
That includes 17 offensive boards, which the Seminoles used to create 19 second-chance points.
“It comes down to toughness,” Slaughter said. “That was one of our keys to win this game. Every 50-50 ball, we were on it. Every loose ball, we knew we had to get. Every loose ball, every rebound, we had to get it. Both teams, I don’t think shot very well. But it came down to rebounding.”
Added Semrau: “The willingness to go battle makes us really hard to keep off the boards.”
Florida certainly couldn’t do it.
As a result, the Seminoles have their second win over a ranked opponent this season and their fourth in their last five tries against Florida.
That one loss, an 82-72 setback in Gainesville to open last season, was in the back of the Seminoles’ minds as they entered this year’s contest.
FSU held a 15-point lead before letting the Gators rally back and deal them a sour note on which to start the campaign.
“This game, win or lose, you hold it for an entire year,” Slaughter said. “And we had a bitter taste from last year. I think we wanted to come out and prove ourselves.”
FSU’s victory Thursday night is the latest in an impressive run for Florida State athletics against its fierce rival.
The Seminoles’ football team throttled the Gators, 41-14, in Tallahassee on Nov. 26. And FSU’s volleyball team followed suit by rallying from a two-set deficit and eliminating UF from the NCAA tournament in Gainesville last week.
The FSU women made its three for three on Thursday, while the Seminoles’ men’s basketball team will look to hold up its end of the bargain when it hosts the Gators at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“For a lot of reasons, it’s a big win. But mostly because it’s a rivalry game,” Semrau said. “Florida- Florida State is one of the best rivalries in the country. To continue that winning streak we have – volleyball last week, football the week before – it feels really good.”