The Florida Gators (6-3) have basically been nomads this season. The O'Connell Center in Gainesville is undergoing renovation and will not be ready for play until the end of December. By that time the Gators will have played 12 games in road or neutral environments. They came to Tallahassee for the ninth game on this road trip. The (7) Seminoles were waiting and sent (23) Florida on its way with a 83-58 loss. The win for FSU moves the Noles to 9-1 on the season with the only loss being a two pointer (without Leticia Romero) to (1) UConn in the second game of the season.
Both teams started out well. Florida was able to keep it close through the efforts of All-SEC performer Ronni Williams (20pts, 5reb) who scored six straight Gator points to cut FSU's lead to one with about four minutes to go in the first quarter. Eleanna Christinaki followed that up with a jumper to give UF a brief one point lead. From there FSU went on a 10 point run sparked by a Leticia Romero (21pts, 6reb, 4asts, 3stls) three ball. Christinaki stopped the bleeding but FSU took a 22-15 lead into the second quarter.
In the second FSU was able to play with a comfortable lead for most of the quarter. UF was able to cut the lead to three at one point but FSU took a 39-29 lead into halftime as the Noles went on a 7-2 run to end the half. Florida was able to bother FSU a bit with a constantly changing defense. Florida coach Amanda Butler tested the Seminoles with a variety of defenses including man to man, 2-3 zone, 2-3 zone trap, and full court and half court pressure. These shifting defenses did seem to bother the Noles a bit as FSU ended up with 18 turnovers which is four above their average. However, the energy spent changing defenses also seemed to play a part in the Gators wearing down a bit later in the game.
In the second half the two teams basically traded baskets until midway through the quarter when a confusing sequence occurred. With FSU up 47-39 Imani Wright got her pocket picked by Delicia Washington. Wright tried to recover the ball but was called for a foul. She appeared to give a little shove to Washington's back and the Florida guard went sprawling out of bounds. In truth, she embellished the fall a bit but Wright should have never given her the chance. In any case the officials whistled Wright for a common foul and a technical for the shove. UF was therefore entitled to four free throws and the ball. Florida sent Christinaki (84% FT) to the line instead of Washington (54% FT). Under the rules, the common foul shots should be shot first which means that Washington should have been at the line. However the refs didn't catch it and Christinaki shot and made three straight free throws. Sue Semrau left the bench to point out the error and the officials looked at the monitor and realized their error. They wiped Christinaki's free throws off the board and sent Washington to the line. Washington missed both free throws. Christinaki then went to the line and got one of two. The Gators got the ball but Dyandria Anderson missed a three. Shakayla Thomas (16pts, 5reb) got the board. The Gators only got one point out of that opportunity when they could have conceivably gotten seven.
From that point FSU went on a 10-3 run to end the quarter. The Noles took a 57-43 lead into the fourth. In the fourth UF seemed to run out of gas. The Seminoles won the quarter 26-15 which included a 14-2 run in the middle of the quarter to blow the game open.
Neither team shot particularly well for the game (UF 40.7%, FSU 40.3%) but the Noles beat Florida up on the boards (45-35) and forced 27 Gator turnovers. Florida also struggled to score as Williams was the only Gator in double figures.
The reality is that FSU when fully healthy as they are now has more talent than all but a handful of teams in the nation. Eventually that talent showed through when the Noles were able to figure out UF's shifting defense. Ivy Slaughter (13pts, 10 reb) had a double-double and Romero had another game north of 20 points. Brittany Brown (13pts, 6reb, 7asts, 5stls) stuffed the stat sheet although she did have five turnovers. In an interesting development, Brown is playing mostly at the point even when Romero is in the game. This is a wrinkle that bears watching as it gives Romero more shots (she lead the team tonight with 14) and could possibly open up things inside for Thomas and Slaughter.
This was another comfortable win for the Noles at home. The fact that it came against a top 25 team and FSU was never really that threatened tells you how well this team is playing. The Seminoles are ranked #7 in the AP poll and #6 by Sagarin but they are playing top 5 quality basketball. If this continues into ACC play the Noles will be in line for a top seed in the NCAA's and a prime opportunity to make the first Final Four in program history.
Up next Florida State will travel to Birmingham, AL to take on UAB on Saturday at 3pm.