March 22, 2019 - by
Seminoles Hold Off Bucknell in 70-67 Thriller


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Kiah Gillespie had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and fifth-seeded Florida State held on to beat No. 12 seed Bucknell 70-67 in the opening round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Nicki Ekhomu, Nausia Woolfolk and Valencia Myers each had 15 points for the Seminoles (24-8), who advanced to play fourth-seeded South Carolina on Sunday.

Gillespie played big in the paint, helping Florida State outrebound Bucknell 44-23. She also hit a big 3-pointer in the closing minutes as the Seminoles battled back from a four-point deficit early in the fourth quarter.

“Well, just credit Bucknell. I mean, what a great game plan they had and they just played like the champions of the Patriot League,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “I was really, really impressed and have a lot of respect for them. And then I’m just so proud of our players. Two weeks off is a long time to be off and you can see that at the beginning of the game.

“We were rusty, we weren’t able to get stops, and for them to just bear down and come back and win a gritty game, I’m just really, really proud of them. And I think the biggest thing for me is rebounding. And the way we were able to rebound the ball, I thought, was the difference.”

Kate Walker led Bucknell (28-6) with 18 points, while Kaitlyn Slagus had 13 and Ellie Mack had 12.

Bucknell trailed 54-50 before opening the quarter on an 8-0 run led by Slagus, who hit a 3-pointer and two free throws and Abby Kapp, who drained a 3 from the top of the key.

But Florida State battled back to take the lead for good at 63-60 with 3:55 left when Ekhomu drove the right side of the lane, scored and drew a foul for a 3-point play. Gillespie followed with a big 3-pointer from the top of the key on the next possession to make it two possession game.

Bucknell kept battling, cutting the lead to two with 17 seconds left when Kapp scored on a layup of a side inbounds play. And when Ekhomu missed the front end of a one-and-one with 14.6 seconds left, Bucknell a chance to tie and send the game into overtime. But Slagus and Kyi English both missed 3-pointers on a frantic final possession.

“It’s really fun and it’s amazing because my teammates really gave me a lot of confidence to get the ball inside to me,” Myers said after her 15-point, six-rebound performance. “We knew that it was gonna be one-on-one in the post and they just trusted all the post players to make our moves and had confidence in us.”

Redshirt junior forward Kiah Gillespie collected another honor on Friday when it was announced that she was named a regiona finalist by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

Gillespie was one of 13 regiona finalists named from region 1, joining fellow ACC student-athletes Asia Durr (Louisville), Emese Hof (Miami), Paris Kea (North Carolina), Kiara Leslie (NC State), Marina Mabrey (Notre Dame), Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse), Beatrice Mompremier (Miami), Arike Ogunbowale (Notre Dame), Jessica Shepard (Notre Dame), Brianna Turner (Notre Dame) and Jackie Young (Notre Dame).

The selection committee uses an equation to determine an equitable number of nominees from each region. The number of NCAA Division I institutions in each region is divided by the number of NCAA Division I institutions overall to determine a percentage for each region. This percentage is then multiplied by 52 (the total number of desired finalists) to get the number of finalists for each region.

The 2019 WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America team will be announced Thursday, April 4, during the WBCA Convention at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Florida.

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