TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Monday night’s highest-ranking matchup in women’s basketball history at the Donald L. Tucker Center produced more twists and turns than a mechanical bull ride.
Fourth-ranked Florida State led by 13 late in the third quarter, got a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Leticia Romero at the end of regulation to force the first of two overtimes, then swapped leads eight times before falling to No. 8 Texas, 92-88.
In a “Big Monday” match-up of the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference leaders, the Longhorns (21-4) extended the nation’s second longest winning streak to 19 games by beating their second top-four opponent in seven days, snapping the Seminoles’ 10-game winning streak.
Texas closed out the victory by holding the Noles (23-3) without a field goal over the final 3:37. Shakayla Thomas, who led the Noles with 23 points and 11 rebounds, followed Brittany Brown’s layup with a go-ahead free throw for an 85-84 lead with three minutes remaining.
FSU missed its final six shot attempts and Olamide Aborowa’s layup with 1:10 remaining gave the Longhorns a 91-88 lead that the Noles could not overcome.
“It’s the kind of game you want to have in February,” FSU coach Sue Semrau said. “It was a great basketball game…
“Ama [Degbeon] said it best when we were sitting out here, ‘Two years ago we had this game to get in the Elite Eight.’ This is the game we had to play then. We got to play it in February. It’s a great opportunity for us, a great experience, to hit the three to go into overtime and get the stop to go into the second overtime. All of that stuff we will be able to look back on.”
Victims of fatigue related to both foul trouble and additional 10 minutes of play, the Noles couldn’t muster enough defensive stops after building a 35-26 halftime lead. FSU forced 13 first half turnovers to offset foul trouble that limited Romero and senior teammate Ivey Slaughter to two points in eight combined minutes.
“Florida State was really good tonight and they gave us some looks and problems that we really haven’t had in a while,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “Some of it was uncharacteristic play by our team, but I also have to credit Florida State for the way they defended us and their offensive rebounding was tremendous.”
The Seminoles snared 27 offensive rebounds on the night, converting them into 25 second-chance points, and outscored the Longhorns 24-13 from the free throw line. Those advantages helped keep Texas at bay much of the way as FSU led for nearly 34 minutes despite shooting 34-percent from the floor.
Texas, however, stepped up big in the second half – and beyond – knocking down 20 of 29 shots behind Brooke McCarty’s career-high 29 points and 21 from Ariel Atkins.
Still, the Noles built their largest lead – 59-46 with 13.9 second remaining in the third quarter – on a pair of Maria Conde free throws.
“I think maybe we were a little fatigued and on the defensive end that showed,” Semrau said. “They hit shots and we didn’t. That was a tough stretch for us.”
Attacking the rim and knocking down mid-range jumpers, Atkins scored 16 of her points over the final 10 minutes. Ultimately she was more than the Noles could handle, despite 13 points each from Degbeon and Brown, 12 from Romero and 11 from Imani Wright, who scored all of her points in the first half.
Texas outscored the Noles 22-9 in the fourth quarter to take a 71-68 lead, before Semrau dialed up an inbounds play which sprang Romero for her overtime-forcing 3-pointer from the corner with 1.1 seconds to go in regulation.
Brown opened the first overtime with a jumper as the Noles built a quick 77-73 lead on Chatrice White’s reverse layup. FSU failed to score from the floor over the final 3:08 but White knocked down a free throw to knot the score at 80-all with 15.7 to play and Degbeon corralled a McCarty miss at the opposite end to set up a second overtime.
“Our fight and our resilience, I thought was phenomenal,” said Texas coach Karen Aston. “To be on the road on this kind of environment and have the adversity; we had a lot of people in foul trouble and they hit the shot at the end of regulation. Our team showed a lot of toughness and a lot of resiliency.”
The Seminoles won’t have to wait long to demonstrate their resilience, as they head to Virginia on Thursday with an eye on building on their ACC lead.
“We’re still the same team but we’re going to be better for this,” Semrau said.
“We’re trying to go win the ACC and this is a game we want to have right now to prepare us for the tournament.”
GAME NOTES BY FSU SPORTS INFORMATION:
• Monday night’s classic between FSU and Texas was the first double-OT game the Seminoles had played in 11 years. FSU’s last game that went to two overtimes or longer was a 94-83 triple-OT win over Virginia Tech in Tallahassee on Feb. 19, 2005.
• FSU’s last overtime game in general came on Dec. 3, 2014, at Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. FSU won that game 67-64. The Seminoles are now 24-19 all-time in overtime games.
• Junior forward Shakayla Thomas’ 23 points and 11 rebounds marks her eighth career double-double and third this season. Thomas went 9-of-34 overall, with her 34 field goal attempts tying the school record shared by Bev Burnett vs. Georgia Southern on Dec. 16, 1987.
• Thomas now has 14 career 20-point games, including a team-best six this season.
• Senior guard Brittany Brown recorded her 127th career start, tying former player Natasha Howard for the most in FSU history.
• Redshirt junior guard Imani Wright recorded her fourth double-figure performance in six career games vs. Texas. She finished with 11 points and tallied three 3-point field goals, the 13th time this season she has made three or more. Wright’s 56 triples are the eighth-most in a season at FSU.
• For the first time in her career, junior center Ama Degbeon enjoyed back-to-back double-figure games, finishing with 13 points, five rebounds and going 7-of-8 from the line. Her 18 minutes tied for her second-most this season.
• Heading into the Clemson game on Jan. 15, Degbeon was averaging 1.8 points per game. Since that game (eight games), she has averaged 7.4 over the eight-game stretch.
• Texas guard Brooke McCarty’s 29 points and 11 made field goals (11-of-16) were the most by an FSU opposing player this season.
• The Seminoles hoisted 86 field goal attempts, their most since shooting the same amount in an 85-77 loss to Duke in overtime on Jan. 23, 2014.
• It took 26 games for an opponent to shoot 50 percent or better against the Seminoles – Texas shot 50.7 percent.
• FSU was able to come away with more second-chance points (25-20) and lead in bench points (25-19).
• A total of five players fouled out – Leticia Romero and Ivey Slaughter for FSU, and Joyner Holmes, Kelsey Lang and Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau for Texas.
• Monday’s game was just the third Top 25 non-conference game for FSU in the month of February.
• FSU is now 4-2 all-time in AP Top 10 matchups, including 1-1 this season. Despite falling Monday, FSU defeated No. 9 Louisville, 72-65, on Jan. 12.
• Texas’ McCarty played all 50 minutes, while Brown led FSU with 45 minutes played.
HEAD COACH SUE SEMRAU
“It’s the kind of game you want to have in February. We battled the early foul trouble. Ama came in and was phenomenal. Probably our best post today with the way she defended, at the free throw line, knocked down shots. Brittany played 45 minutes. Now Virginia is probably a more important game for us at this point.”
On being in foul trouble and how Brittany Brown handled the floor general role:
“She knows how to do it. But the depth, having Nicki (Ekhomu) being out for two weeks and having a couple guards who have been out, it wasn’t what it normally is. So getting Leti (Romero) with those three fouls early is really rare. But it was a good challenge for us and I thought we handled it well.”
About Ama’s performance:
“She was phenomenal. She’s been phenomenal for us all year though. Our defense is predicated on many things that Ama does probably better than anybody on our team. Her offensive game is now coming along and how exciting is that for us going into this deep stretch?”
What this game does for down the road:
“Ama said it best, ‘Two years ago we had this game to get into the Elite Eight.’ This is the game we had to play then but we got to play it in February. That’s a great opportunity and experience. To hit the three to go into overtime, to stop to go into the second overtime, all of this we’re going to be able to look back on. And when Shakayla got that rebound, wanted to outlet it to Leti, got denied and double dribbled- that’s the kind of stuff where we want to make our mistakes now.”
Anticipating 34 shots from Shakalya tonight?
“Not necessarily. Its overtime, so it’s not a normal 40-minute game. It’s another whole quarter. Shakayla has done great things shooting the basketball for us. Their size was really tough and it hurt us. Their pressure on the wings was tremendous and it limited the amount of shots the guards got.”
Did Texas do anything in particular in the 4th quarter?
“We were a little fatigued and on the defensive end that showed. They hit shots and we didn’t. So that was a tough stretch for us but to be able to finish strong and go into overtime was big.”
About Leti’s game tying 3-pointer:
“That’s something you want to be able to do. It’s nice that the shot goes in but it was the screens that were set and Brittany putting her in a situation for her to be able to do that.”
On focusing on the positives:
“There are so many things that could have gone either way and opportunities to win, it was just that kind of game. They had people foul out and we had people foul out. It would have been great to have but at the same time, that’s not what our goal was. Our goals are still intact. We’re still the same team but we’re going to be better because of this.”
Does it make it easier knowing that you have resume building wins?
“If we look at the number of top AP wins we have is a resume builder within itself. Is this a resume builder? Not really. It could have been but that’s not what we were looking at. We got what we needed and now we need to learn from that and move forward.”
Do you blame the miscues on fatigue?
“We throw this out and we focus on what’s ahead and learn from it. Ivey played 14 minutes and fouled out and that doesn’t usually happen. Leti played 26 of 50 so that’s a lot of our depth. Those things are going to happen but we just have to learn from it.”
Takeaway from this game:
“We’re trying to go win the ACC and this is a game that we want to have right now to prepare us for the tournament. We’d love to host and go far in the tournament but we have a really good chance to win the ACC so that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Where’s your confidence right now?
“Defensively, I’ve been confident for longer but this year I could feel the confidence from my teammates. They were helping me offensively and setting up and there were great passes from Brittany and Maria. So most of the credit is to them for believing in me.”
TEXAS HEAD COACH KAREN ASTON AND GUARD BROOKE MCCARTY
“That was a pretty good basketball game, that’s the first thing I’d say. Florida State was really good tonight, and they gave us some looks and some problems that we haven’t really had in a while; some of it was uncharacteristic play in our team, but I think also I have to credit Florida State for the way they defended us… and their offensive rebounding was tremendous tonight, but our fight, and our resilience, I thought was phenomenal. To be on the road in this kind of environment, and have the adversity… we had a lot of people in foul trouble… I just thought our team should a lot of toughness, and a lot of resiliency. And I say this all the time but it comes from these two on both sides of me (Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins) because they have something really special that doesn’t allow our team to get down or to quit, and I thought our leadership was good, but it was a complete team effort; from the top, to the bottom.”
Was there something you adjusted during the half, because your offense seemed to run much more smoothly in the second half?
“No question. Again, that was uncharacteristic of us to have the kind of assist/turnover ratio that we had in the first half. That is the one thing that has dramatically improved on our team, our ability to handle the basketball and make good decisions. I would say some of it was that we were sped up the first half, maybe a little anxious trying to do things that weren’t really there, and we just didn’t have any ball reversal. Again, I credit Florida State, but I thought we settled in the 2nd half, we ran a few different sets. We ran more sets because they were handling our on-ball offense much better than we anticipated, and we just couldn’t seem to get reversal. So, I think we ran into a few more set actions that got specific people, specific shots, which I thought made us better. We were never able to our bigs really involved in the low blocks. I thought their pressure on the ball and their ability to keep us from reversing a lot did not give us an opportunity to get Kelsey and Joyner much involved in the paint, which was a problem for us.”
Brooke (McCarty), at this point in the season, being able to step out of conference and get a different type of test, from another elite team, what does this performance do for your team? I mean, you guys have played obviously tremendous Big 12 play, but what does this game do for you as the season moves forward?
“I think it just shows how tight our circle can get, and how much better we can be. There was no time out there that I thought our circle was loosing, that we didn’t understand each other, that we weren’t playing off of each other, and I think that it took the whole team. From top to bottom, we kind of just stayed in tune with each other, and we just did what we did, and stayed locked into the game plan and I think that is what helped us.”
These games are rare. How important is a game like this in terms of preparation for the post-season moving forward?
“Elite play does prepare us for the tournament. It definitely gives you a different look at someone that you’ve not seen and you don’t know everything about; which I would say that back to a previous question, I thought one of the adjustments that we made was we locked into the game-plan better. And, it seemed like the first half we didn’t pay as much attention to the scout as we do in conference play, and I think that’s something that we’ll learn and we’ll be able to look back and say “ok these are all new people, so you might need to study a little bit more, and you may have to lock-in a little bit more mentally that someone that you are so familiar with in conference play; and that’s what’s going to happen in the NCAA tournament. We’ve had a couple of quick turn-arounds. This is two weeks in a row that we’ve played Saturday/Monday, so I think that for us to be able to reflect back on that will be positive for us. We just have to get home to Austin, and get these guys in some ice baths, and get them ready for next, but I do think that we can look back and find some really good things out of this.”
Brooke, getting a career high on a game like this, you kept the offense afloat almost by yourself, what does it do for your confidence moving forward?
“I think it’s accredited to my teammates. They saw that I got hot, and so, they got me the ball, but my teammates were scoring too, so I cant just talk about me, cause it was definitely a team effort. I think I just played off of them, and we played off each other.
What does this game say about your team?
“I think that, again, we are a TEAM. I definitely don’t think that we are one of those teams that someone could focus on one person, or two people. I mean of bigs have been very effective in the last few games, but I think the special thing about this group is that they really are a team. I mean, we had 16 assists in the second half, and that’s who we are; and we care about sharing the ball. You know, Brooke did get hot tonight, and I agree with her. It was one of those things were we ran some sets for her to get the ball, and they did their job in the second half. They set screens, they got people the ball, Ariel got hot for us, and we flow a little bit better through these two. They are leaders; I mean, they are who we look to. Kelsey and Bri were terrific defensively, but when you look at the decision makers, and the people that lead this team, it’s them.”
Did you have to kind of re-group the team, settle them down after Leti got that big shot at the end of regulation?
“No, I think they re-group each other very well. They are a very connected group, and they talk a lot to each other. I think they were happy we were going to over-time to be honest with you. It was a dogfight to get back in the game. I mean, we had to regroup Lashann a little bit, which we took her out, let her catch her breath for a second, and then put her back in. I thought she did a terrific job of re-grouping and that’s something that is really special to me. To watch that young kid, our young lady, have a set-back like that where she probably felt like that was a mistake, on Leti hittig that three, and then came back and really made some really big plays in OT; and that is growth for her. That’s one of the things that was fun to watch, as a coach.”
Just for a coach, how much does it mean to win a second one over a top program in eight days, both of them on the road?
“I think it is a confidence builder. I mean, every time we get a win, I think we are building confidence. The last couple of games, and I even look at the Kansas game on Saturday, I think what’s been fun to watch also, and within this little run, has been the growth of our young players. I played everybody today, and everybody contributed. A young lady came in the game that hadn’t played all year hardly, and hit a huge basket (Olamide Aborowa), and that is because of how we practice everyday. And so, we’ve been preaching all year long that you may not be playing in this game, but your number might get called and it got called. A lot of them got called tonight, and I thought they responded. That is what’s building our confidence, that everybody is getting better, not just these two sitting up here or our seniors. Everyday they work and you can tell they are getting better.”