TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) – A whole new brand of basketball begins on Thursday night at 7 p.m. as 23rd-ranked Florida State Women’s Basketball travels to play Virginia in its ACC opener. The contest at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va., will be live streamed on the ACC Network Extra.
The meeting will be the 53rd between the Seminoles (12-1, 0-0) and Cavaliers (6-7, 0-0), with UVA owning a 35-17 advantage. Virginia is led by first-year coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Tina Thompson, who retired as the WNBA’s scoring leader in 2014 before spending three seasons as an assistant coach at Texas from 2015-17.
Florida State has won four of the last five meetings, and eight of the last 13 matchups since 2010. FSU begins ACC play on the road for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
— FSU Women's Hoops (@fsuwbb) January 1, 2019
Overall, FSU has won nine of its last 12 conference openers and is 12-15 overall in ACC-opening games. FSU has opened ACC play just once against Virginia, defeating the 19th-ranked Cavaliers 68-50 on Jan. 7, 2010 behind Chasity Clayton’s 15 bench points.
Redshirt junior forward Kiah Gillespie makes her ACC debut against the Cavaliers. She is coming off a 25-point, 12-rebound and four-assist effort in a 79-43 win over Georgia State, leading FSU in points, rebounds and assists.
Gillespie ranks 17th nationally with 97 made field goals this season, and over the course of FSU’s eight-game win streak she leads the Seminoles with 19.4 points, 8.9 rebounds while shooting 56 percent (65-of-116).
During the win streak, the trio of Gillespie (19.4 ppg), Nicki Ekhomu (15.3 ppg) and Nausia Woolfolk (13.1 ppg) has accounted for 67 percent of the team’s scoring.
The Seminoles are coming off one of their best quarters of the season, out-scoring Georgia State 32-5 in the fourth quarter last game. FSU shot a blistering 84.6 percent (11-of-13) in the final frame vs. the Panthers. In Florida State’s last two second halves played at Milwaukee and vs. Georgia State, it has combined to out-rebound its two opponents by +29 boards (23/7 vs. Milwaukee, 23/10 vs. GSU).
Virginia ended its non-conference season with a 65-61 win over Charlotte at home on Dec. 30. Junior forward Lisa Jablonowski led The Hoos in scoring with 17 points in 35 minutes played. For the season, junior guards Jocelyn Willoughby (12.6 ppg) and Dominique Toussaint (11.2 ppg) are Virginia’s lone double-figure scorers.
The Cavaliers are also typically anchored by 6-foot-9 low post presence Felicia Aiyeotan, but the Lagos, Nigeria, native has missed the last nine games due to a knee injury. Aiyeotan led the ACC with 2.09 blocked shots per game last season, earning a spot on the All-ACC Defensive Team.
FSU’s second game of the ACC season will take place on the road at North Carolina on Sunday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. on FOX Sports Sun and several other ACC regional sports networks.