Florida State (13-1, 1-0 ACC) begins ACC play in style with a 103-65 romp over North Carolina.
North Carolina (10-4, 0-1 ACC) is a program in transition. Three years ago the Heels were 26-9 - including a win over an Elite 8 FSU team - and they made the Sweet 16. The next year UNC slid all the way to 14-18. Last year they were 15-16. What happened you ask. The decline can be traced back to the academic scandal that hit Chapel Hill the last few years. The ensuing cloud really hurt recruiting for everyone on campus (just ask Ol’ Roy Williams) but it decimated Sylvia Hatchell’s program. I wrote this 2 1⁄2 years ago but it still works as a refresher of the challenges that still face the Heels.
In 2013 UNC signed the best recruiting class in the nation. It featured Diamond DeShields (#3 overall recruit according to HoopGurlz), Allisha Gray (#7), Jessica Washington (#14), and Stephanie Mavunga (#23). This is the type of class that is supposed to put you in the thick of the national championship race. Instead everything has fallen apart for the Heels. Every single player in that celebrated class has either transferred or announced plans to transfer. DeShields transferred to Tennessee last year. She sat out last season and will have three years remaining starting in the 2015-16 season. Gray (15.8 pts 7.6 rebs) was UNC's best player last year. She announced that she is transferring to South Carolina - what a scout team they will have next year! She will miss next year and have two years remaining for the Gamecocks. Washington and Mavunga (14.4 pts 9.8 rebs) have announced that they both plan to transfer but have not decided on a destination yet.
For the record, Washington went to Kansas and Mavunga took her talents to Ohio State. UNC is still trying to recover from those defections but it is obviously difficult. To add insult to injury, the Tar Heels were missing two of their best players today (Destinee Walker and Stephanie Watts) because of injury.
The Heels got off to a great start when point guard Jamie Cherry nailed a three to open the game. Unfortunately that would be UNC’s last three of the game (1-13) but for now the Heels had a 3-0 lead. FSU responded with six straight points and after that the two teams mostly traded baskets for the rest of the quarter. At the end of the quarter FSU took a 23-21 lead on a Nicole Ekhomu layup.
Unfortunately for North Carolina, the rules state that the teams must play a second quarter. FSU started the quarter with a 15-1 run that was capped by by an Imani Wright three ball. The Noles had a 38-22 lead at this point and Hatchell was forced to call a time out. It didn’t help much as the Seminoles ended the half with a 58-36 lead.
The second half was mostly academic as barring a complete collapse the Noles weren’t giving up a 22 point lead. FSU was up 82-52 after three quarters en route to the 103-65 win.
Wright had her best game as a Nole. Her 33 points was a personal best and her eight triples set a school record. Shakayla Thomas had a double-double (22pts, 13reb) and Nicole Ekhomu had a strong all around game with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. This is the fifth time that FSU has broken the century mark in ACC play. The final 38 point margin of victory is the largest FSU has ever had over UNC.
When you win by 38 it’s hard to point to one stat to explain it but the Noles dominated the boards in this game. FSU won the rebounding battle 47-22. In fact FSU had as many offensive boards (22) as the Heels had total rebounds.
Florida State will travel to Clemson (10-4, 0-1 ACC) to take on the Tigers on January 4 at 7pm. Clemson lost to Georgia Tech in Atlanta today 66-33. Sagarin has FSU as a 26.5 point favorite.