TALLAHASSEE, Fla – Given the circumstances, Sue Semrau was surprisingly upbeat late Monday night.
Semrau’s fourth-ranked Florida State women’s basketball team had just lost for only the third time all season, dropping a 92-88, double-overtime thriller to No. 8 Texas after squandering a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
No one at the podium during FSU’s postgame press conference could be mistaken for happy – not after the Seminoles hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to even force overtime, and especially not after a handful of miscues and missed opportunities allowed Texas to rally from a four-point deficit in the first extra period.
But, save for a victory, Semrau said her team got everything it wanted out of a rare, late-season matchup against a non-conference foe.
The Seminoles got a good look at one of the nation’s top teams, persevered through stretches when they weren’t at their best and got contributions from across the bench thanks to foul trouble for stalwarts Leticia Romero and Ivey Slaughter.
In a sense, it was a perfect preview for next month’s NCAA tournament.
“It’s the kind of game you want to have in February,” Semrau said.
Indeed, and in more ways than one.
To start with the obvious: If the game had been played, say, this time next month, Florida State’s season would be over.
Instead, the Seminoles got to play a Sweet-16-style game a month in advance, against exactly the type of team they’re likely to see in that round.
And there’s never a bad time for that.
Texas ranks fifth in the latest NCAA ratings percentage index – one spot ahead of FSU – and has won 19 straight games.
“Ama (Degbeon) said it best: ‘Two years ago, we had to play this game to get into the Elite Eight,’” Semrau said. “This is the game we had to play then, but we got to play it in February. That’s a great opportunity and experience.
“To hit the 3 to go into overtime and get the stop to go into the second overtime, all of this we’re going to be able to look back on.”
When they do, the Seminoles will see the type of toe stubs that cost them a victory on Monday and that, truth be told, could cost them come March.
But they’re also the types of nagging missteps that can be tightened up between now and then. They hardly reveal any cracks in Florida State’s foundation.
Consider that, in a game that reached 50 minutes in length, Romero and Slaugher, two of the team’s top four scorers, played just 26 and 14 minutes, respectively, before fouling out.
As a result, the Seminoles had three players – Brittany Brown, Imani Wright and Shakayla Thomas – top the 40-minute mark, whereas Texas had just one.
And that, despite the fact that four different Longhorns fouled out.
FSU’s lack of depth caused problems as the game wore on, as evidenced by their shooting struggles down the stretch.
Texas outscored FSU 22-12 in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and the Seminoles combined to shoot just 5 of 15 in both overtime periods. FSU didn’t make a single field goal in the last 3:38.
That FSU shot just 34 percent for the game sticks out in the box score. But, for a team that averages 46.9 percent from the field, it’s also not a cause for panic.
“We throw this out and we focus on what’s ahead and we learn from it,” Semrau said. “Ivey played 14 minutes and fouled out. And that doesn’t usually happen. ‘Leti’ played 26 of 50, so that’s a lot of our depth. Those things are going to happen, but we just have to learn from it.”
Otherwise, the Seminoles will lament getting just 25 second-chance points out of 27 offensive rebounds and a few missed free throws down the stretch that could have saved much of the night’s drama.
FSU finished 24 of 32 from the line – nearly 16 percentage points better than Texas’ 13 of 22 – but missed three in the first overtime period.
“There are so many things that could have gone either way and opportunities to win, it was just that kind of game,” Semrau said.
But the fact remains that, while Monday’s contest may have resembled an NCAA tournament game, it still wasn’t one. FSU missed out on a chance to bolster its resume for a No. 1 seed, but not much else. And the Seminoles should get another crack at that when they visit No. 7 Notre Dame later this month.
Otherwise, Semrau was happy to view this game for what it was – a late-season tune-up against a quality opponent. A win would have been nice, but a loss hardly derails what still has the makings of the special season.
“It would have been great to have, but at the same time, that’s not what our goal was,” Semrau said. “Our goals are still intact. We’re still the same team, but we’re going to be better because of this.”