March 28, 2016 - by

Semrau Wants A ‘Tougher’ Team In 2016-17

DALLAS – Put toughness and maturity on the top of Sue Semrau’s wishlist for next year’s Florida State women’s basketball team. Despite losing seniors Adut Bulgak and Emiah Bingley, the Seminoles return plenty of talent, including top scorer Shakayla Thomas, floor general Leticia Romero and a recruiting class that ESPN ranked as the fourth-best in the country.

But after FSU’s 78-58 loss to Baylor in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, Semrau is convinced that the Seminoles need more mental toughness if they are to take the next step.
 
“I truly believe that if we’ll be a tougher basketball team, then we’ll be a really good basketball team,” Semrau said. “You’ve got to have leadership that will step up and really hold everyone accountable.
 
“That’s something that I don’t know that we had earlier this year. We expected it to happen, and we’ve got to make it happen.”
 
The Seminoles displayed those traits in spurts this season, often with impressive results.
They bounced back from a sloppy loss at Louisville earlier this year by reeling off 11 straight victories, just one shy of the school record. And their 25 wins, No. 10 national ranking and back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances are more than enough to draw envy from programs across the nation.
 
Yet FSU’s resolve went missing far too often for Semrau’s taste. That was apparent on Saturday when, after taking an early lead against the Lady Bears, the Seminoles’ offense sputtered while Baylor surged ahead.
 
Matched up against Baylor’s second-ranked field-goal percentage defense, FSU struggled to find easy baskets and went into halftime shooting just 25 percent from the field.
 
Making matters worse, several players admitted that their woes on offense eventually bled into efforts on defense.
Semrau Wants A ‘Tougher’ Team In 2016-17
“You don’t necessarily have to make (your shot), but if you don’t, you have to get back on defense,” Romero said. “We let our offense dictate our defense. So every time we missed a shot, we just put our heads down and we just wouldn’t fight.”
 
Added Thomas: “When we got down, we just really got down. We’d get down on ourselves instead of picking each other up.”
 
Against a team like Baylor, that’s a recipe for disaster. And the Lady Bears held up their end of the bargain, building a 16-point lead by halftime and stretching it to as much as 24 points in the fourth period.
It wasn’t the first time things spun out of control for FSU this season. But Semrau hopes it will be the last, period.
 
“I’ve never had a Florida State team that has allowed that to happen,” she said. “That kind of fight and grit that is Seminole basketball, and I didn’t think we had that this year. We’ve got to develop it next year.”
 
The good news is that three of FSU’s core players – Romero, forward Ivey Slaughter and guard Brittany Brown – are back as seniors next year. And Thomas, fresh off an All-ACC selection, will only be a junior.
 
It didn’t take Thomas long to look ahead.
 
“I’m excited, because we can start in the summer,” Thomas said. “That’s where great teams are made.”
 
And where tough ones are made, too.
 
Semrau vowed to revamp the team’s mental makeup before the next season begins, and having a surplus of veterans ought to make that an easier task than usual.
 
But if not, Semrau is confident she can find players who will get on board.
 
“Our emotions have to stay in check,” she said. “You have to stay at a certain level. And that’s something important. Going into next year, we’re going to have enough people on our roster that if you’re not at that level, then you won’t be on the court. 
“We’ve got to change things.”

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