TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) – Florida State Women’s Basketball (9-6, 8-6) enters a critical final week of the regular season beginning with a road matchup at Notre Dame (9-8, 7-6) on Thursday at 7 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.
FSU holds the tie-breaker over Syracuse at fourth place in the ACC and hopes to nab its sixth Top-4 seed in the ACC Tournament in the last seven years if it can take care of business against the Fighting Irish and Wake Forest (Sunday at Noon at home).
1️⃣ more week. 2️⃣ more chances.
— FSU Women’s Hoops (@fsuwbb) February 23, 2021
“They have a lot of young players who are going to develop and have the potential to be elite,” FSU Interim Head Coach Brooke Wyckoff said of Notre Dame. “They do a lot of the same types of things that they’ve always done, which makes them very hard to guard.”
While FSU is tied for fourth in the ACC at 8-6 in the conference, its upcoming two opponents are right underneath it at sixth (Notre Dame) and seventh (Wake Forest) in the conference. The Seminoles, which lost 65 percent of its scoring from last year, were projected eighth in the league by the ACC’s head coaches.
Wyckoff has done a remarkable job navigating a difficult season on many fronts. She has had to fill the shoes on an interim basis of coaching legend Sue Semrau, endured 15 schedule changes this season, had three of four non-conference games canceled, weathered several key injuries and guided a team that had to begin the year with over 40 practices and just one game played (season-opening 81-75 win over Florida on Dec. 1).
The Seminoles are coming off a big 68-59 home win over No. 3 Louisville, their highest-ranked home victory since defeating No. 3 Duke in overtime, 82-75, on Jan. 29, 2009. Junior guard Morgan Jones delivered an epic 26-point, 10-rebound double-double performance in the impressive win. In that game, Jones drew 11 fouls and went 12-of-15 from the free throw line.
“That’s really our job – to draw that out of them and help them see what they are capable of on a day-to-day basis,” Wyckoff added about the team’s belief following its win over Louisville. “We’re in this first part of developing this team with all the new roles and experiences and ups and downs of a shortened season. Those are the moments you look for: This is what you are capable of on a consistent basis. Now how do we figure out how to do that day-to-day and not sometimes.”
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FSU will do its best to change the course of history against Notre Dame. The Seminoles are 0-10 vs. the Fighting Irish, falling 70-67 in last season’s thriller at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Notre Dame remains a tough opponent that is coming off a 59-48 road win at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Freshman forward Maddy Westbeld has emerged as one of the conference’s most consistent players, averaging 15.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and shooting 44.9 percent from the floor as well as 38.6 percent from downtown.
Junior point guard Dara Mabrey is also having a stellar season for the Fighting Irish, averaging 12.2 points, shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range and dishing 3.5 assists per game. Notre Dame owns quality wins over Virginia Tech (twice), Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. The Irish have had to endure five consecutive games on the road.
With Notre Dame being 52nd in the latest NET Rankings, FSU is looking for its sixth Top-60 NET win this year. The Noles own quality wins over No. 6 Louisville (home), No. 27 Virginia Tech (road), No. 36 North Carolina (road), No. 44 Syracuse (home) and vs. No. 60 Florida (home).
Jones is the only guard in the ACC ranking in the Top 15 in the league in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, free throw percentage AND steals. The only other player who is in those same categories is Notre Dame forward Westbeld.
Florida State has won the rebounding battle in each of its last five games played. In that span, it has out-rebounded the opposition by +5.8 boards per game (192-163).
Kourtney Weber has guided Florida State on the road this season. In her six games played on the road, Weber leads FSU with 14.0 points per game, is shooting 50 percent from the floor (30-of-60) and 50 percent from downtown (10-of-20). Due to a foot injury, Weber did not suit up in FSU’s 61-51 win at North Carolina on Feb. 4.
Wins over Notre Dame and Wake Forest this week would continue FSU’s consistent play against conference opponents. Entering the season, only the Seminoles and Louisville had won 10 or more ACC games in each of the previous six seasons. FSU needs two more regular-season wins to reach the double-digit win mark once again.