The Florida State Seminoles (3-0) defeated the Florida Gators (1-2) 84-64 Friday night in Gainesville.
Florida is in rebuilding mode. After last year’s tumultuous season that saw the team’s leading scorer quit midseason the Gators limped to a 15-16 record. This led to the firing of head coach Amanda Butler. Florida then swung for the fences and tried hard to convince San Antonio Spurs assistant and WNBA legend Becky Hammon to take the job. Ultimately Hammon turned down the offer and Florida had to look elsewhere. They settled on Cameron Newbauer who was formerly the head coach at Belmont University.
Newbauer has a bit of a reclamation project on his hands. The last time Florida signed a 4 or 5 star player was the 2014 class when they had one 5* and 2 4* players. That’s zero blue-chippers in the last three years. FSU has signed four 5* and 1 4* prospect in just the last two years. It’s not getting better as the Gators only have one player committed for 2018 - a 3*prospect. Simply put the Gators don’t have the talent to hang with FSU right now. Florida could very well get this turned around as the facilities, administrative support and fan support are all there but it will take time.
FSU jumped out to an early 12-4 lead behind aggressive play from Nicole Ekhomu off the bench and sharp shooting from point guard AJ Alix. UF would eventually fight back and tie the game at 16 on a triple from Sydney Morang. The teams mostly traded baskets until FSU hit the Gators with a 12-2 run that was capped by a three from Alix to end the second quarter. FSU would outscore the Gators in the second quarter 20-8 to take a 38-26 lead.
Shakayla Thomas got involved to start the second half with a jumper. The Noles reeled off nine straight points to start the second half and built a 47-26 lead. From there the game was never in doubt and the Seminoles cruised to an 84-54 victory.
AJ Alix led FSU with 26 points while Nicole Ekhomu had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. FSU also enjoyed a huge 50-32 rebounding edge.
Alix is fitting in very nicely with this squad. Nicole Ekhomu looks like a different player. The sophomore is playing with a lot of confidence. She is fearless in taking the ball to the basket and is flashing a nice mid-range game. In short, she is showing why she was rated as a 5* recruit. Iho Lopez got her first playing time and while she only played nine minutes she scored and had three boards and a block. She could be an important player going forward as she, Chatrice White and Ama Degbeon are FSU’s only real post players.
This was a rivalry game but the Noles did what they had to do in dispatching an over-matched opponent. The schedule is light until FSU travels to Iowa City on November 29th to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.
FSU will now travel to Grambling, LA to take on the Grambling Tigers on Sunday at 5pm.
Recruiting Wrap Up
As you probably know by now 5* prospect Olivia Nelson-Ododa chose UConn over FSU, Duke, South Carolina and Georgia. It’s disappointing to lose a player of Nelson-Ododa’s caliber but FSU is still very much moving in the right direction.
This will put a bow on FSU’s 2018 class. The Noles will welcome a top 5 class to Tallahassee with five top 100 players on the way in Izabela Nicoletti (6), Kourtney Weber (35), Valencia Myers (40), Morgan Jones (64) and Amaya Brown (82).
ESPN currently has FSU’s class ranked #4 nationally. I disagree for reasons I explain here. I would have FSU’s class ranked #2 nationally. In any case, the class is outstanding and the Noles are definitely moving in the right direction.
FSU has commitments from two top 50 players in 2019 in Sammie Puisis (13) and River Baldwin (32). This class could very well also end in the top 10 as FSU will probably sign at least one or two more players in 2019.