March 24, 2019 - by
Noles End Fulfilling Year vs. South Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Seminoles.com) – Once again, it was right there for the taking.

The fifth-seeded Florida State Women’s Basketball team had closed out so many close games in positive fashion this season. And being tied at 60-60 with 2 ½ minutes left, another opportunity was there.

But a strong close by fourth-seeded South Carolina spoiled the Seminoles’ (24-9) chances of their sixth NCAA Sweet 16, as a 12-4 run in the closing minutes by the Gamecocks (23-9) dealt Florida State a 72-64 season-ending loss at Halton Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday.

“Two teams just battled and you saw it till the very last play,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “Two teams that put a lot of belief and courage in themselves. Especially proud of my team and the courage they had as a young team to come out in this great environment.”

Junior guard Nicki Ekhomu led all scorers with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting, adding four rebounds and four assists. The Bolingbrook, Ill., native was difficult to stop, and her jumper cut FSU’s deficit to 63-62 with 1:56 remaining.

Ekhomu led a Seminole squad with just eight healthy bodies whom withstood the pounding of a tough and physical South Carolina team that also carries plenty of depth.

“It says a lot about the fight and I just think that we appreciate our coaches, our whole staff as far as the way we train,” Ekhomu said. “They really make sure that we take care of our bodies and I think that, that’s what really helped us be able to sustain playing 40 minutes that hard.”

Redshirt junior forward and All-ACC First Team performer Kiah Gillespie registered her 13th double-double of the season. She had 15 and 18 rebounds, establishing an FSU single-game postseason record for rebounds.

Freshman guard Morgan Jones became an enormous X-factor on Sunday, adding a career-high 15 points along with five rebounds. The Jonesboro, Ga., native recorded 11 of her 15 points in the second half and made some big buckets down the stretch to give the Seminoles a chance.

“I’m absolutely amazed,” Semrau added. “I’m amazed at their resilience; I’m amazed when I think about their practices. There are eight kids at practice and they have stayed positive, ready and fit. Like Nicki (Ekhomu) said, I really credit our strength coach Dave Plettl. He has done a phenomenal job with helping me to know how to prepare them for this time of year.”

The Seminoles dominated the Gamecocks on the glass with 50 total boards compared to South Carolina’s 33. However, FSU was not able to stay away from the whistles as it was called for 23 fouls compared to USC’s 14.

FSU’s 23 fouls called, in what was a physical game, was its third-most this season. South Carolina went 20-of-24 from the line while FSU shot 7-of-11 from the charity stripe.

FSU was able to capitalize in transition, which was a key area for Jones. The Seminoles totaled a season-high 18 fast-break points, and also held a strong edge in second-chance points at 19-9.

For Florida State, big aspirations are already shaping up for next season. FSU does not have any seniors, returns key players from injury and adds three top-notch freshmen.

“To get those players back that have been injured, I am extremely excited,” Semrau said of the prospects of next year. “We went into this year knowing the youth and building for what’s to come. We also have a couple in Atlanta at the All-American game that can hopefully help us right away. We’ll have the depth that we didn’t have this year, next year.”

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