TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) – With a fourth consecutive Sweet 16 berth on the line Monday night, one of the most prolific offensive teams in Florida State women’s basketball history came up as cold as the winter climate of their opponent, Buffalo.
Coach Sue Semrau’s third-seeded Seminoles never found their offensive rhythm against the savvy, gritty Bulls, who are moving on as the No. 11 seed following an 86-65 victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
That’ll do it. Our 3-year streak of making it to the second weekend of the #ncaaW tournament is over.
— FSU Women’s Hoops (@fsuwbb) March 20, 2018
The 11th-ranked Seminoles (26-7) shot just 33.8 percent from the floor, including a season-worst 12 percent (3-of-25) from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Sometimes you have games where you just can’t get a rhythm and I felt that was the game for us,” Semrau said. “But we have to create our own rhythm and we didn’t do that on the defensive end.
“It kind of felt to me like our NC State game…where we just couldn’t get anything going at the offensive end. It should be our defense that fuels our offense. That wasn’t this team. This team our offense fueled our defense. We were a great offensive team, but that’s not enough. It certainly wasn’t enough to get us to the next round.”
Senior Shakayla Thomas produced a game-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting in her final game for the Noles, but FSU’s No. 2 all-time scorer could not carry the club alone. Sophomore Nausia Woolfolk pitched in 12 points and senior AJ Alix added 11, but Thomas’ six teammates combined to miss 40-of-53 attempts from the floor.
Two nights after scoring the first NCAA win in program history, Buffalo (29-5) is heading back to New York for Saturday’s third-round game in Albany. Junior guard Cierra Dillard led the balanced Bulls with 22 points, while senior point guard Stephanie Reid and sophomore forward Summer Hemphill added 18 and 17, respectively.
“They played a tremendous game; a tremendous two games,” Semrau said of the Bulls. “They are extremely well-coached. They did what they needed to do and completely out-played us; every quarter they outplayed us.”
A tight first half battle turned over the final 2:32 of the second quarter. Fueled by Dillard, the Bulls closed the half on an 11-2 run for a 39-30 halftime lead. Quiet up until that point, Dillard scored 12 of her 15 first half points in that stretch.
“Cierra is always going to do what’s needed from her,” Reid said. “We thrive on Cierra’s energy. She creates such a good vibe for us on the court. Whether she’s making or missing, you don’t even notice.”
Thomas’ basket to start the second half trimmed the deficit to seven, but Katherine Ups’ 3-pointer, a 15-footer by Dillard and Reid’s runout layup gave the Bulls a 46-32 lead which the Noles never seriously threatened to overcome.
“Buffalo is a great team,” Thomas said. “They came out ready to play, like they had something to prove. That’s exactly how everybody should come out and play when you play anybody. They got a good run on us and we didn’t have an answer for it.”
The Bulls’ defense had a lot to do with that, contesting every 3-point attempt from their match-up zone, then controlling the tempo at the offensive end to salt away the victory.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense and we knew today that was going to be such a huge emphasis for us,” Reid said. “To hold them to 65 points, when they score a lot…We did a really good job of controlling the pace today. We just locked in our defense and that really helped us to get this win.”
The Seminoles took 11 more field goal attempts than the Bulls (68-57), but made four fewer field goals. Buffalo never let off the gas, battling FSU to a near draw on the boards and converting 27-of-30 free throw attempts to extend their season as the first at-large team from the Mid-American Conference invited to the tournament.
“The MAC has always been a one-bid league,” Reid said. “They finally opened up to us and accepted us into the tournament at-large, and now we’re really showing why.”