Florida State's bid for a program first Final Four ends in Stockton as the Seminoles fall to the South Carolina Gamecocks 71-64.
Florida State got off to a rough start as the Gamecocks scored the first five points. However, the Noles would bounce back to cut the lead to 7-6 on an Ivey Slaughter layup. USC then went on an 8-2 run to take a 15-8 lead. From there the teams mostly traded baskets until Tyasha Harris hit a three to beat the buzzer to give Carolina a 24-17 lead going into the second quarter.
In the second quarter the Seminoles used a 6-0 run that was capped by a Brittany Brown jumper to close the gap to 28-25. South Carolina responded with a 6-0 run of their own to take a 36-27 lead on an Allisha Gray jumper. The teams mostly traded points after that and USC took a 40-29 lead into halftime.
In third FSU tried to make a move but Carolina had a response every time. USC was able to stretch the lead to 16 and then FSU was able to close the quarter on an 8-2 run to close the gap to ten at 55-45.
USC started out the fourth quarter well as Tyasha Harris hit a three ball. The Noles responded with an 8-2 run that was capped by a putback from Chatrice White. Gray responded for USC with a jumper. Then Leticia Romero nailed one of only two treys for FSU. South Carolina responded with three quick points but FSU would not die. The Seminoles responded with a quick 6-0 run to cut the lead to three at 65-62 with three and a half minutes left in the game. Kaela Davis scored the next points on a jumper. After FSU missed a couple of shots Harris got the rebound. As she was bringing the ball up court she was cleanly stripped by Romero who was racing for an uncontested layup that would have brought the Noles to within three with about a minute left. However, the officials whistled a foul on Romero. Rather than foul FSU played it out and got a defensive stop. However, the Noles couldn't convert on the other end as A'ja Wilson got a block on a play that could have easily been her fifth foul. At that point FSU was reduced to fouling and USC made enough free throws to get the 71-64 win.
Florida State was led by Leticia Romero's 16 points (6-23), 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Chatrice White had 15 points. Shakayla Thomas had 8 points and 8 rebounds while Ivey Slaughter had 6 points and 10 boards for the Noles.
Kaela Davis was superb for the Gamecocks. The junior had 23 points and 5 boards. Even though she battled foul trouble all game A'ja Wilson had 16 points and 4 rebounds and 4 blocks. Tyasha Harris was big for USC with 16 points and 6 rebounds.
The simple analysis is that FSU dug themselves too big of a hole in this game. They were down seven after one quarter and down 11 at the half. That is usually going to be too big of a deficit to overcome against a team as talented as South Carolina. Against Oregon State a comeback is more likely because the Beavers are prone to scoring droughts. USC has Davis and she wasn't allowing that tonight. The Noles deserve credit for mounting a comeback but it's hard to continually expect to get big comebacks against elite teams.
FSU's shooting let them down in this one. USC deserves credit because they continually forced the Noles to take contested jumpers but FSU settled for too many of those jumpers. There were a lot of stats in FSU's favor as they held USC to only two offensive rebounds and they forced 18 Gamecock turnovers. However, the Noles were cold from deep (2-15) and ultimately that doomed the comeback effort.
FSU shot a whopping 26 more shots than USC and still lost the game. You will rarely see a losing team have that type of edge in shots taken.
South Carolina shot .578 from the field but a lot of that offense was on great athletic plays by the Gamecocks and Davis in particular. Even though an argument could be made that FSU should have used the zone more the defense was mostly okay it was just great basketball plays by USC that provided the difference.
We will have more to say about this season and where the team goes from here in future article. We will also discuss the seniors and the contributions that they have made to the program but they deserve a special shout out here. Brittany Brown, Kai James, Leticia Romero, and Ivey Slaughter helped turn this program around and put it firmly on the road to elite status. They have left quite a legacy in Tallahassee.