Every day beginning Monday, April 28 and ending on Wednesday May 7, there will be a countdown to Florida State women’s basketball’s Top 10 accomplishments from the 2013-14 season. Check back each day on Seminoles.com as well as on our Facebook and Twitter pages to find out where each feat ranks as we get to No. 1 on May 8.
It was a critical point in the season when Florida State traveled to face Clemson on Feb. 23. The ‘Noles faced a final three-game stretch in the conference season that was crucial for ACC Tournament seeding and NCAA postseason aspirations. The Garnet and Gold started the stretch with a much-needed 59-43 grinder victory at LittleJohn Coliseum, and it was largely attributed to a record-setting offensive rebounding performance.
The Seminoles corralled THIRTY offensive rebounds against Clemson, a total that was the most ever allowed by the Tigers. Florida State wound up having more offensive rebounds (30) than defensive rebounds (26), and finished the game with a season-high 56 total boards. Over 68 percent of FSU’s missed shots were rebounded by the ‘Noles, as freshman guard Brittany Brown and fellow freshman forward Ivey Slaughter led the way with seven offensive rebounds apiece.
It became quite apparent throughout the season that one of FSU’s strong suits was its physicality inside and getting to those ’50-50′ balls for extra possessions. Its effort on the offensive glass at Clemson highlighted one of the team’s grittier performances of the season in what was considered a must-win game.
In what was another successful season for Florida State, one of its biggest strengths shown in the 2013-14 year was its ability to generate steals. Last year, the ‘Noles racked up 336 steals, the most by the program since the 1990-91 team garnered 364 steals. For the record, none of the current ‘Noles were even born during that time.
As a team, Florida State’s highest ranking national category was steals per game, averaging 10.2 to rank 20th in the NCAA. FSU posted 21 games where it recorded double-digit steals, topping out with 17 against Prairie View A&M on Nov. 17, 2013. For a team that returned just three players from a season ago and had to work on playing together offensively, generating steals was a must for easy transition points as well as points off turnovers that turned into manageable buckets.
FSU trailed only North Carolina in the ACC in steals per game. The team’s top perimeter defender, freshman Brittany Brown, set a freshman record by recording 78 steals to lead the team. The total was not just a program record by a freshman, it was also the most in a single season since the late great Alicia Gladden had 101 steals in the 2004-05 season. For her active hands on the defensive end, Brown was honored at the team’s season-ending banquet with the Alicia Gladden Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Florida State, despite being young and somewhat inexperienced this past season, showed its true mettle when it came to getting after the boards. It was a group that displayed plenty of ‘muscle and hustle,’ impressively outrebounding opponents in nearly 73 percent of its games in 2013-14.
The Seminoles’ walked away with more rebounds in 24 of their 33 games played this season. In a year played against several quality opponents, the ‘Noles grabbed more boards in their games against Louisville (+6), Florida (+4), UT Martin (+21), Duke (+9), Syracuse (+19), Georgia Tech (+11), Iowa State (+14) and plenty more. Based on a per-game average, FSU outrebounded its opposition 41.3-34.8.
Based on total rebounds, Florida State’s 1,363 total boards is one of the highest in school history and the most since the 2009-10 team had 1,446 rebounds and reached the NCAA Elite Eight. Senior Natasha Howard’s 9.3 rebounds per game were the most averaged by a Seminole since former WNBA player Levys Torres averaged 10 rebounds per game in the 2000-01 season. Altogether, FSU had a workmanlike attitude this past season and returns players like Kai James and Ivey Slaughter whom can make an impact on the boards once against next season.
Through the first half of the season, Florida State’s 2-3 zone was basically a defensive masterpiece. A legitimate non-conference schedule with some quality opponents had trouble solving the Seminole’s defensive scheme, as FSU held its first 16 opponents to below 70 points.
Florida State was the only team in the ACC to not surrender 70+ points through its first 16 games. Since head coach Sue Semrau took over beginning in the 1997-98 season, it was the longest stretch of time holding the opposition to below the 70-point plateau. The previous longest stretch to start the season under coach Sue was 11 games in the 2009-10 season.
The school record for not allowing 70 points to start a season is also 16 games which occurred for the entire 1972-73 season. FSU’s streak was broken when it allowed 80 points at NC State on Jan. 16, 2014. However, through its first 16 games of the season the ‘Noles allowed only 56.8 points per game and held the opposition to just 33.8 percent shooting from the floor.
Following a 68-63 win at Miami on Jan. 9, 2014, the Seminoles were riding high after starting the season at 14-1 overall. Florida State’s strong start was tied for the best in program history through the first 15 games since also starting 14-1 in the 1982-83 season as members of the Metro Conference. Therefore, you could say that it was FSU’s best start ever as members of the ACC (since the 1991-92 season).
Included in FSU’s hot start was an early 2-0 record in the conference season, defeating Pitt on the road, 78-69, followed by the big road victory over the Hurricanes. The ‘Noles began to peak in both national polls, showing up at No. 18 in the Associated Press Poll and 17th in the USA Today version. With an offense that was starting to get big-time efforts from Natasha Howard and a staunch 2-3 zone, the ‘Noles were really beginning to pick up their play.
FSU’s fast start was halted by a subsequent four-game losing streak, but that didn’t stop the ‘Noles from reaching the NCAA postseason. It was that critical 15-game start that boosted its overall profile heading into conference play, and was a large factor in reaching the Big Dance. Carrying a No. 12 non-conference RPI heading into Selection Sunday, FSU’s hot start to the season definitely carried some weight and was proof that the ‘Noles earned some quality wins before being thrown into the ACC Gauntlet.
Coinciding with the No. 6 choice on the countdown based on FSU’s strong start, Florida State held an impressive win streak. The Seminoles registered a 10-game win streak from Nov. 29, 2013, to Jan. 9, 2014, tying for the second longest in program history.
Over the course of the win streak, FSU was outscoring its opponents 70.9-55.2, an average margin of 15.7 points per game. Much like her entire career, senior Natasha Howard was an absolute terror during the 10-game win streak, averaging 21.3 points and 9.8 boards. One of FSU’s top wins of the season happened during the streak as it upended No. 25 Michigan State, 60-58, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4 at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
FSU’s win streak was the highest since the 2009-10 NCAA Elite Eight squad also posted a 10-game winning stretch. In fact, five different 10-game streaks have occurred in the program’s history, including in 1981-82, 1982-83, 1990-91, 2009-10 and last season. The 2004-05 squad that really jumpstarted FSU’s strong run of success under head coach Sue Semrau once held a 10-game win streak that peaked at 12, a school record.
Florida State has shown over the years that once it gets selected to the NCAA Tournament, it is definitely tournament ready. This year was no exception as its 55-44 win at No. 7 seed Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Ames Regional kept a pretty impressive streak going.
Behind a staunch defense that limited the three-point shooting Cyclones to just 7-of-38 beyond the arc, No. 10 seed FSU won its 11th straight first round game in the NCAA Tournament. The streak (a word that has been used several times in this countdown) began in 1991 when the ‘Noles defeated Appalachian State, 96-57, in the NCAA Mideast First Round at home in Tallahassee.
The senior tandem of Natasha Howard and Cheetah Delgado led FSU with 10 points apiece, while Howard added 13 boards for her 41st and final double-double as a Seminole. An impressive crowd of nearly 7,000 witnessed FSU put on another defensive clinic to off-set a game where both teams were tentative at times with so much at stake.
Points and rebounds… Those were two categories that came quite naturally to former player Natasha Howard. The Toledo, Ohio, native did a lot of scoring and put in hard work on the glass, but that was never more evident than in her superb senior season in 2013-14.
One of Howard’s individual accomplishments from last season merits its own place on the Top 10 Countdown – she recorded a single-season school record 15 double-doubles. What was so impressive about Howard’s final season was that her numbers grew stronger when the ‘Noles entered conference play in what many believe is the top conference in women’s college basketball. In fact, nine of Howard’s 15 double-doubles came against ACC competition.
The previous FSU record for double-doubles in a season? Not surprisingly, Howard shared that honor with 12 in her sophomore season in 2011-12. Former player Laine Lassetter (1978-79) also recorded 12, which now ties the second-best mark. While Howard’s array of double-figure points and rebounds are impressive, perhaps no game stands out more than her scintillating 28-point, 22-rebound performance against Duke when the Blue Devils were a Top-5 team on Jan. 23, 2014. She became the first ACC player to have a 20-20 performance since the 2007-08 season.
I guess it comes as no shock that Howard leaves her FSU career as the school’s career leader in double-doubles with 41, 10 more than the second-place player on the list.
What a year it was for senior point guard Cheetah Delgado. She distributed the ball better this past year than anyone else in school history, which is why she has been chosen at No. 2 on the list for breaking the single-season assists record at Florida State.
Delgado, who hails from Kississimme, Fla., registered a school-record 216 assists this season. The total was 18 more than Courtney Ward’s 198 dimes in the 2009-10 season. Delgado’s assist mark is the fifth-most in ACC history and her average of 6.5 assists in her senior year is the highest by an ACC student-athlete since former Maryland player Kristi Tolliver averaged 7.43 in 2008-09. Delgado’s record-breaking 199th assist of the year came with 8:33 left in a senior day win over Virginia, giving Ivey Slaughter a nice pass on the block for an easy finish.
Delgado had several special games this season (she had six double-digit assist performances). But none was more special than when she delivered a school-record 15 assists in a 72-55 win over Boston College on ‘Paint it Paint’ Day on Feb. 9. It was a fitting performance for Delgado, who lost her mother to breast cancer in 2009 and plays each game in honor of her. The single-game feat broke a near 38-year old record held by Shirley Silsby on Feb. 6, 1976, when she recorded 14 assists.
And don’t discredit Delgado’s scoring ability either. When it came time to make a few big shots this season, she was there to carry FSU to some crucial wins.
When it came to individual dominance this season, not many players across the country were as effective as senior Natasha Howard. Her single-season school record five 30+ point games earns her the top spot on the 2013-14 FSU Women’s Basketball Top 10 feats list.
Howard averaged 20.5 points this past season, and just more than halfway through the season she had come close several times to reaching the 30-point mark in a game for the first time in her career. But when she dropped a school-record 40 points at Syracuse on Feb. 13, the floodgates began to open. One week later she traveled to Maryland and put together 35 points and 11 rebounds against one of the nation’s best teams. Finally, Howard torched Georgia Tech (34 points), Virginia (33 points) and Miami (30 points) in consecutive games toward the end of the season to put an exclamation point on her high-scoring status.
The fact that Howard achieved her five 30+ point games against ACC competition is remarkable. She also had seven other games where she produced 25 or more points (not including the 30+ games). Her efforts in the scoring column is something that could be duplicated in the future, but it will take a lot of work and an even more amount of skill to match Howard’s standout senior season.