Last night in arguably the most surprising night in the history of the NCAA Women's Tournament, two number one seeds (South Carolina and Notre Dame) lost in huge upsets. Florida State (25-8) had an opportunity this afternoon to take down a third number one seed but unfortunately Baylor (36-1) had other ideas. The Bears cruised to the Elite Eight beating the Seminoles by a score of 78-58 in the Dallas regional.
The Bears started the game strong racing out to a 5-0 lead behind a rare three from Alexis Prince (9pts). FSU battled back to tie the game at 7-7 following a jumper from Shakayla Thomas (10pts, 9reb). From there the teams mostly traded baskets until Baylor went on an 8-0 run in the last 1:14 of the first quarter to take a 24-15 lead into the second quarter. FSU struggled in the first quarter hitting shots but Baylor was turning the ball over so neither team was able to pull away until Baylor was able to cut down on their turnovers and get that run to end the quarter.
In the second quarter the Bears continued their strong play. The Noles were having a tough time finding their rhythm due to Baylor's good defense and to the number of fouls that were being called. A number of Seminoles were picking up fouls and this would be theme throughout the rest of the game. Meanwhile the Bears continued to play. FSU was having trouble getting anything against Baylor's defense. The Noles had only two made field goals in the second quarter. One of those shots was a triple from Brittany Brown (10pts, 9reb) to cut the lead to 31-23. From there Baylor went on a 9-1 run to end the period. The Bears took a 40-24 lead into halftime. It could have easily been worse. Baylor was stifling the Noles with their defense. FSU was only shooting 4-24 on two point field goals at the half.
The Noles refused to give up. Leticia Romero (11pts, 5reb, 6ast, 4stl) had seven turnovers in the first half but she came back to start the third quarter with a three ball to get the Noles going. From there the teams traded baskets until the Noles made an 11-2 run midway through the quarter. Ivey Slaughter (10pts, 5reb) contributed with an old-fashioned three point play to cut the Baylor lead to 50-39. Romero hit a triple a minute later to get FSU to within eight points. Unfortunately for FSU that was as close as they would get. Baylor scored eight of the last 10 points in the quarter to swell the lead to 58-44. FSU was never able to cut the lead under double digits for the rest of the game as Baylor cruised to a 78-58 victory.
Junior forward Nina Davis (30pts, 5reb) was unstoppable all afternoon. Davis combines deceptive quickness with great finishing skill around the basket to find a way to score against taller players. These abilities were on display today against FSU.
Fouls and turnovers also really hurt the Seminoles. FSU had 21 turnovers for the game (BU had 17). When FSU has over 20 turnovers against a quality team especially on the road the chances for a win drop precipitously. Adut Bulgak got in foul trouble early and only played seven minutes in the first half. Due to the foul trouble she had to sit for long stretches and therefore had trouble finding her rhythm. Both Romero and Thomas had trouble getting on track early and the fouls combined with Baylor's excellent defense made a comeback extremely difficult. FSU really needs the Big 3 to play great against elite teams like Baylor. None of them played a terrible game but none of them played at the level the Noles needed to pull off the big upset.
This loss ends FSU's season at 25-8 with a second straight Sweet 16 appearance. This is the first time in program history that the Noles have made two consecutive Sweet Sixteens. A big reason for the strides made by the program has been the effort of two seniors who played their last game for FSU today. Adut Bulgak and Emiah Bingley were both transfers into the program and they have made big contributions as Seminoles both of them stepping into the starting lineup this year. They will be missed.
Stay tuned to Tomahawk Nation in the off-season. We will discuss the state of the program and how the season went relative to expectations and where the Noles go from here relative to the ACC and the nation.