The (3) Florida State Seminoles (26-6) defeated the (14) Western Illinois Leathernecks (26-7) 87-66 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the TLCCC.
This game was a tale of two halves. The Necks started out hot as they jumped out to a 9-4 lead. Taylor Higginbotham hit a three to give WIU the early lead. The Noles were able to stay close by leveraging their size advantage inside as Ivey Slaughter was able to get a couple of straight layups. Unfortunately for FSU they were making too many turnovers and Western was capitalizing with threes. With a minute left in the first quarter Michelle Farrow made a three point jumper to give the Necks a 19-11 lead.
In the second quarter the tide turned in the favor of FSU. Basically the Noles started taking better care of the ball. Chatrice White scored a couple of layups to get things going and then the Seminoles started converting the good looks that they were getting all game. Midway through the quarter the Noles hit WIU with an 8-0 run that was capped by a Shakayla Thomas layup to take a 26-24 lead. The Necks didn't fold however. Emily Clemens came down and popped a three for Western to get them back in front. From there the two teams mostly traded baskets and FSU took a 36-34 lead into halftime.
The second half was all Florida State. The Seminoles started out with a 9-2 run and didn't look back. The Noles won the third quarter 31-22 to take control of the game. The Seminoles were able to do this in large part because they turned up their defense and were able to get points in transition. WIU showed that they have an efficient offense but defensively they weren't able to handle FSU unless they were getting turnovers. Once the Noles settled that down they had much more success.
In the fourth quarter the Seminoles started with a 14-1 run to basically seal the win. After the run the score was 81-57 and the rest of the game was academic.
Florida State was led by Shakayla Thomas who had a huge double-double of 23 points and 14 boards. Chatrice White wasn't far behind with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks. Taylor Higginbotham led Western with 20 points despite missing several game minutes with a cut under her left eye from an Ivey Slaughter inadvertent elbow.
The mantra in the NCAA Tournament is "survive and advance". FSU certainly did that today but the Noles must improve in important areas if they wish to get to their first Final Four. The two big areas are three point shooting and turnovers. FSU had 19 turnovers today and the Noles were only 2-9 from deep. Some of this can likely be blamed on rust as FSU hasn't played in two full weeks. However, they must get better or they will not make it to Stockton.
Florida State will face the (6) Missouri Tigers who beat (11) South Florida 66-64 in a thriller on a last second shot. FSU will have to be ready for this game. The Noles are a better team on paper but they certainly don't want to have a sluggish start like we saw this evening. The game will be on Sunday in Tallahassee.