Both (#7) Florida State (13-1, 1-0 ACC) and (#11) Miami (11-2, 0-1 ACC) entered the game sporting 11 game winning streaks but it was the Seminoles who left Coral Gables with their streak intact. FSU defeated Miami 81-66 tonight in the ACC opener for both teams.
Miami coach Katie Meier has done a great job with the Hurricane program. This is Meier's 12th year at the helm and she has guided UM to five of the last six NCAA Tournaments. She routinely gets the most out of her players and Miami usually plays FSU tough despite the fact that they have now lost 10 of the last 12 games to the Noles.
Miami is led by two outstanding senior guards in Adrienne Motley and Jessica Thomas. Motley and Thomas lead the Canes in scoring at 12.3 points a game. Inside the Hurricanes rely on junior Erykah Davenport who leads the team in rebounds with 6.3 and also chips in 10.2 points a game. Overall UM has been a very good defensive team holding teams to .369 shooting. The advanced stats favor the Canes as well. Miami is holding opponents to .768 points per possession while scoring 1.04 points per possession themselves against the 131st ranked schedule according to Sagarin.
Unfortunately for Miami they faced a genuine elite basketball team tonight. Florida State averages 1.124 points per possession on offense and only surrenders .716 points per possession on defense. These numbers put FSU in the top 10 in offensive points per possession (5th) and defensive points per possession (7th). The only other team in the nation in the top 10 in both categories is Baylor. However the Bears have done it against the 221st ranked schedule while FSU has done it against the 45th ranked schedule.
Leticia Romero has been a big reason for the great offensive production. After tonight's game the senior guard is shooting 56.8% (3PT). That is not a misprint; 56.8%! That percentage is good for second in the nation. Romero is first in the ACC in this category. Duke's Rebecca Greenwell is second at 43.6%. Romero is leading the league by a ridiculous 13.2%. Romero is also shooting .926 (25 for 27) from the free throw line.
However the Noles are not a one woman show. FSU has four players (Romero, Shakayla Thomas, Ivey Slaughter, and Imani Wright) averaging double figure scoring but none of them are averaging 15 points a game. The Seminoles are a true team and that makes them extremely difficult to defend as the defense can't key in on one person.
The Noles got off to a quick 10-3 start as Imani Wright (19pts, 4reb) hit two triples early. The Canes came back with four straight points and FSU responded with a 9-0 run in which (in typical FSU fashion) four different players scored. Miami bounced back with the last five points in the quarter when Motley (18pts) hit a three to cut the lead to 19-12.
The Noles started the second quarter strong with a 10-3 run to open a 29-15 lead. However, Miami had an answer. The Canes went on a 10-0 run that culminated with a Motley three ball. Romero answered with a triple but Motley hit a three and then Jessica Thomas (20pts) hit a 30 footer at the buzzer to cut FSU's lead at halftime to 32-31.
Miami had all of the momentum going into the second half but FSU didn't care. The Noles started the second half on a 9-1 run to open a 41-32 lead. Motley broke the streak with three straight points. From there FSU went on another run. This time it was a 12-3 run that culminated with a Shakayla Thomas (14pts, 11reb) jumper to run FSU's lead to 53-38 with 2:48 left in the third quarter. Emese Hof (12pts, 6reb) got inside for a layup and from there the two teams mostly traded baskets with FSU ending the quarter with a 60-45 lead.
Florida State began the fourth with an 11-4 run in which Romero connected on a pair of threes to give FSU a 71-49 lead midway through the quarter. UM didn't quit but with a 22 point lead and only 5:30 left the game was effectively over. FSU took their foot off the gas and coasted to the 81-66 victory.
The Noles were led by Romero (19pts, 6asts, 4stls) and Wright (19pts, 4-7 3PT). Shakayla Thomas also chipped in with a double-double. Chatrice White (13pts, 10reb) had perhaps her best game as a Nole. As White becomes more comfortable with her teammates and the offense she could add another dimension going forward that would make FSU even more dangerous.
Miami was led by their dynamic duo of Adrienne Motley (18pts) and Jessica Thomas (20pts). Emese Hof (12pts, 6reb) had a nice game for UM but starting center Davenport was held scoreless and could never find her rhythm against the Noles.
Florida State cemented its place as a truly elite team with this convincing win. FSU just beat the 11th ranked team in the nation in a true road game by 15 points in a game in which they never trailed.
The biggest stat in this game was the rebounding margin. FSU outrebounded UM by a whopping 43-25. FSU only has one starter (Ivey Slaughter, 6'1") over six feet but with this game they have a 43.5 to 29.9 rebounding edge over their opponents for the season. FSU is not a big team but they do so well on the boards due to their outstanding athleticism. If they can continue to rebound like this versus bigger lineups it will be really tough to beat this team. They have very good to outstanding shooting in the backcourt and on the wings combined with great offensive rebounding from Slaughter. The Noles can also bring in White off the bench and she provides FSU with a potentially lethal inside-outside game.
FSU returns home on Jan. 2nd to host 11-3 N.C. State. The Wolfpack have just defeated #2 Notre Dame in Raleigh 70-62. They will be coming to Tallahassee filled with confidence. The game will tip at 7pm and will be shown on ACC Network Extra (ESPN 3).