March 20, 2011
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – Florida State rode Cierra Bravard’s muscle and smothering defense to another strong NCAA tournament start.
Bravard had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Seminoles to a 76-46 win over Samford on Sunday in the first round.
Florida State (24-7) used superior size and strength to easily make it through the tournament opener for the seventh straight year after advancing to the regional final last season.
Samford (25-8), the Southern Conference tournament champion, was also mostly denied its staple, the 3-pointer, in its first NCAA appearance.
Courtney Ward, a native of nearby Montgomery, scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers in the first half for the third-seeded Seminoles. Chelsea Davis also had 13 points in 13 minutes off the bench. Freshman Natasha Howard grabbed 10 rebounds to help Florida State forge a 52-23 advantage on the boards.
Bravard was 9-of-14 shooting and helped put Samford post players Savannah Hill and J’Quita Babineaux in early foul trouble.
Emily London led Samford with 14 points, but was held in check most of the game by Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year Christian Hunnicutt. Hill, Samford’s No. 2 scorer, finished 1-of-11 shooting for four points.
The 14th-seeded Bulldogs came in ranked in the top five nationally in 3-point percentage, but scarcely got any good looks and went 5 of 19 from behind the arc.
London, whose 48 percent 3-point clip was second nationally, launched only one attempt in the first 35 minutes, and that came when Hunnicutt wasn’t guarding her.
The Seminoles controlled the game throughout, especially on defense, against a team that had won 13 of its last 14.
Ward’s off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer, her third, gave Florida State a 34-21 halftime lead. The Seminoles scored the first five points of the second half and didn’t allow a field goal for nearly the opening five minutes
The Bulldogs hit just 5 of 25 shots in the first half and missed their first six in the second. They finished up shooting 26.9 percent.