The Noles extended the lead to double-digits in the third quarter, coming out of the locker room with a quick 9-2 run. Senior guard Leticia Romero scored the first seven points of the period for FSU, who turned the intensity level up a few notches.
Shakayla Thomas scored 14 of her 23 points in the second half, looking seemingly un-guardable at times. The junior out of Sylacauga, Ala., routinely attacked the offensive glass for put back lay-ins.
“I come out in the second half of games and I guess I get energy from my teammates,” Thomas said. “They’re always in my ear like ‘play your game, this is what you do on a daily basis.’ I think it just drove me to do what I do best, and that’s help (the team win).”
The Noles put the foot on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, eventually wearing out the Leathernecks, who couldn’t hit a three-point shot in the period after making 11 through the previous three.
Chatrice White was dominant in the win for the Seminoles, notching career-highs for points (19) and rebounds (14) in an FSU uniform. The junior transfer from Illinois finished the game 8 of 10 from the floor with nine offensive rebounds.
“The way she had blended (with the team) is phenomenal,” Semrau said. “She’s waited her turn and comes out in her first NCAA Tournament and does this. She only missed two shots, she was a beast.”
On the evening, the Noles won the rebound battle 54-23 against the smaller Leathernecks and notched 50 points in the paint. The win gave Florida State its 14th straight victory in NCAA Tournament first round games and moves the Noles to 26-6 this season.
“The combination of the size and athleticism was a little bit of a helpless feeling (for us),” Gravina said on FSU.
FSU will next host No. 6 seed Missouri on Sunday in the second round. Earlier in the day, the Tigers mounted a furious second half rally and defeated No. 11 seed South Florida 66-64 on a buzzer-beating layup. For the Seminoles, they’ll rely on their strengths as a team to aid them in a quick turnaround and unfamiliar foe.
“My mantra as head coach is to really focus on this one game,” Semrau said. “Now, my staff has looked ahead and we’ll be prepared and work together to implement a game plan.”