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FSU women cruise past Syracuse

FSU uses a dominant 26-7 first quarter to race past the Orange.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

(7) Florida State (18-2, 6-1 ACC) cements its status as a nationally elite team by burying the visiting Syracuse Orange (13-7, 4-3 ACC) by a 77-58 score.

Pre Game

Syracuse enjoyed a story book postseason last year. They reached the ACC Tournament finals before losing to Notre Dame 68-57. They were rewarded by the committee with a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Then the Orange caught lightning in a bottle. They reached the Final Four after taking down #1 seed South Carolina in the Sweet 16. They proceeded to handle Washington in the national semifinal 80-59 and then they met a team on the (very) short list of best teams in college basketball history. UConn took care of the Orange 82-51 for their fourth straight title.

The ending wasn't good for Syracuse but last year's incredible run will likely be a program changer in central New York. Head coach Quentin Hillsman has transformed the entire program. He clearly has the program on the rise. Syracuse does it with pace. Syracuse is 7th in the nation in pace while FSU is 58th. They will press virtually the entire game to try to speed the opponent up and create turnovers. They are very good at it as they lead the nation in turnover margin (+10). Offensively they try to shoot as many shots as possible (hopefully threes) as quick as possible. The Orange (81.3) is second in the ACC to FSU (82.2) in points per game but while the Noles are second in the ACC in scoring defense, Syracuse is dead last. The advanced metrics tell a similar story. Syracuse is a respectable 39th nationally in offensive points per possession (1.016) but they are a mediocre 101st in defensive points per possession (.856) while the Noles are 5th in OPPP (1.098) and 4th in DPPP (.74).

SU is led by 5'7 senior point guard Alexis Peterson. Peterson (24.2pg, 7.1ast) is third nationally in points per game (first in the ACC) and ninth nationally in assists per game (second in the ACC). She is a quick, crafty guard who can beat you off the dribble or step back and hit a three (.377 3PT). In a league full of great guards Peterson is clearly one of the best.

While Peterson is the leader, she has some help. Her backcourt mate is 5'9 senior Brittney Sykes. Sykes (18.2pg, 8.1rg) is an athletic wing who is perfect for Hillsman's system as she is particularly lethal in transition. In the froncourt the Orange features 6'4 senior center Briana Day, not to be confused with her sister 6'4 center Bria Day. Briana (12.7pg, 8.6 rg) is an athletic, mobile center that fits perfectly in the frenetic scheme favored by the Orange. Her twin doesn't play as much but she is in the same mold as her sister.

Game Recap

The Seminoles came out hot in this one. The Noles missed their first shot but then proceeded to make their next nine in a row. FSU raced out to a 26-5 lead that was capped by a Maria Conde layup. In typical FSU fashion several players contributed to the run but Shakayla Thomas was particularly effective as she had 10 points in this stretch on 5-5 shooting. Bria Day made a layup to stop the bleeding but the damage was done. The Seminoles ended the quarter with that 26-7 lead.

The Noles started the second quarter on a 5-0 run to push the lead to 31-7 and that effectively ended the game. The Orange didn't quit but they weren't able to cut the lead below 20 until 28 seconds were left in the game.

Thomas led FSU with 17 points on 7-11 shooting. Leticia Romero had 12 points and 8 assists while Brittany Brown filled the stat sheet as usual with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals.

Peterson led the Orange with 26 points and 5 assists but she also had 7 turnovers. Sykes was the only other visitor in double figures with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.

Post Game

The Seminoles are really starting to round into form. With tonight's win the Noles are off to their best start ever at 18-2. There has been only one game all season (NC State) where FSU hasn't looked like an elite team. Tonight against Syracuse they showed their quality again. They only committed 16 turnovers (Syr had 21) against a team that forces over 24 a game. FSU shot 53.7% from the field (57.1 3PT). When the Noles shoot this well they are extremely difficult to beat. As long as FSU stays healthy they have a great shot to make their first FInal Four in program history.

Next Game

The Seminoles will travel to Blacksburg on Sunday, Jan 22nd at noon to meet the (#17) Virginia Tech Hokies (16-2, 3-2 ACC). The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra (ESPN 3). The Hokies fell to Duke tonight in Durham 84-59. Sagarin has FSU as a 14 point favorite.