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FSU Women Drop a Tough One in Connecticut

Too many turnovers doom the Seminoles as they lose 73-49 to the top ranked Huskies.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State needed to play a near perfect game to beat the Huskies on their (almost) home court. The Noles didn't play horribly but they didn't play anywhere near perfect and couldn't pull off the upset falling to UCONN 73-49 at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

The Huskies started out strong with a 6-0 run keyed by some FSU turnovers (more on that later) that ended with a Leticia Romero jumper to get the Noles on the board. Shakayla Thomas started on the bench but Sue Semrau inserted her into the lineup two minutes into the game. This was a smart move as Thomas immediately injected life into FSU's offense and made her presence felt with her aggressiveness and athleticism.

FSU tried to trade punches with the Huskies but were betrayed by turnovers. The Noles were also bothered by UCONN's length, particularly Breanna Stewart who shut down almost everything that FSU tried to accomplish in the post. Stewart did a good job on star FSU center Adut Bulgak. She held Bulgak to five points on 2 for 11 shooting. However, Bulgak did manage to haul down 11 rebounds.

The Noles switched to a 2-3 zone to start the second quarter and this was a good move. UCONN was much less effective against the zone. It worked for FSU because the Seminoles were able to largely eliminate UCONN's opportunities in the lane. They forced the Huskies to settle for jumpers and if they missed FSU did an excellent job of securing the rebound. The downside for the Noles was that the zone did leave a few opportunities for UCONN to take three pointers. After the Noles went to the zone UCONN's next three made baskets were all threes. The zone helped keep FSU somewhat in the game despite going through a scoring drought. After a Bulgak layup to cut the lead to eight, the Noles went five minutes of game time without scoring and the Huskies stretched the lead to 16 before Leticia Romero hit a three pointer.

There were no free throws taken by either team in the first half. This allowed FSU to stay with their tight six player rotation because no one got in foul trouble. It also helped UCONN because they also basically played six players - no other player got more than three minutes for the Huskies.

The second half was very similar to the first. FSU did much better in the zone. UCONN carved up Florida State's man to man defense by exploiting mismatches. They set screens all over the court and then took advantage of FSU when they got a matchup that they liked. The zone took away many of these mismatch opportunities.

When FSU had the ball they faced a very aggressive man to man defense from the Huskies. Moriah Jefferson in particular was up on Romero and Emiah Bingley when she ran the point. The Huskies were able to play so aggressively on the perimeter against the Noles because Stewart is such a good rim protector that she can erase many mistakes. Stewart ended the game with six blocks and five steals. The Noles also had trouble with UCONN's length defensively. The Huskies were able to get their hands into passing lanes and disrupt or steal several passes.

One of the reasons that UCONN is a tough team to play is because they have so many places to go for scoring. They proved that against FSU as the Huskies had four players in double figures (FSU had one, Thomas with 16).

In order to win games against other elite teams the Noles must cut down on the turnovers. They had 26 turnovers (UCONN had 13) and that is way too many. In addition many of them were of the live ball variety and they led to easy UCONN baskets. FSU didn't seem rattled to be playing the #1 team in their home state. The problem with the turnovers seemed to be underestimating the length of the Huskies and outright carelessness. FSU must value the ball better. The Seminoles also need to do a better job in transition defense.

FSU did a great job on the boards outrebounding UCONN 37-24 and limiting the Huskies to three offensive rebounds. Unfortunately for the Noles, they weren't able to convert these rebounds into enough fast break opportunities. UCONN plays excellent defense (FSU shot 37.9%) so the Seminoles really needed to maximize their fast break chances to avoid playing against the Huskies set defense. FSU also needs to hit more open shots. The Noles aren't a great shooting team but they are normally able to get more shots than their opponents with their great rebounding. Against other elite teams this probably won't be enough to win. FSU must maximize their offensive opportunities by hitting open shots.

It would also be nice if someone other than Shakayla Thomas could give the Noles anything off the bench. Depth was a concern going into the season and it is looking like a lack of depth could turn into a legitimate problem for the Noles, especially if there is an extended injury or foul trouble in an important game.

Despite the problems FSU is still an elite team. They just ran into a super-elite team tonight. It's like in boxing. Evander Holyfield was heavyweight champion of the world at 6'2 208 pounds. He was an elite fighter. However, think of how he would do today against one of the Klitschko brothers who are 6'7 and over 250 pounds. FSU is Holyfield to UCONN's Klitschko.

Despite the result it's important for FSU to schedule games like this. Other than the loss there is very little downside to these kinds of games. FSU entered the game at #23 in the RPI and eleventh in the AP poll and ninth in the Coaches poll. None of those rankings will drop far (if at all) after this loss. In fact the RPI will probably rise because UCONN will give a big boost to FSU's strength of schedule. The game also helps FSU get ready for the tough games in the NCAA Tournament.

FSU's next game is on Tuesday December 15th against Mercer in the TLCCC.