No. 12 Florida State (7-0) defeated No. 6 Texas A&M (5-1) by a 80-58 score tonight in Fort Worth, TX as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic.
The game started out tight as the two teams mostly traded baskets in the opening minutes. The Aggies managed a small run at the end of the quarter to take a 20-15 lead on a pair of free throws from Shambria Washington. However Kiah Gillespie answered with a triple to pull FSU to within two at 20-18 to close the first period.
Gillespie’s three ball sparked Florida State to a 13-2 run to begin the second quarter. The Noles were staked to a 28-22 lead after Nausia Woolfolk hit a three pointer. Ciera Johnson hit a layup to stop the run. After that the teams traded baskets until the final two minutes of the quarter. Valencia Myers hit a layup that sparked the Seminoles. FSU went on a 6-0 run to take a 40-32 lead into halftime.
Gillespie hit a three ball to open the second half and the Noles had the first double digit lead of the game at 43-32. From there the two teams traded baskets. However, midway through the period the Aggies made a move. Texas A&M went on a 10-2 run that was sparked by a three from Washington. With 1:29 left in the quarter the Aggies had closed the lead to 57-52. The Seminoles would have an answer though. Kourtney Weber and Nicki Ekhomu hit consecutive jumpers to stretch the lead to 61-52 to end the third quarter.
Early in the period the Noles broke the game open with a 12-2 run that was capped by a Gillespie triple to put FSU up 75-56 with 3:46 left in the game. Washington broke the run with a layup but the Noles scored the final five points of the game for the final margin of 80-58.
Nausia Woolfolk led FSU with 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Kiah Gillespie (22pts, 9reb) and Nicki Ekhomu (15pts, 12asts, 4reb) also had big games. Valencia Myers (10pts, 6reb) was the other Nole in double figures.
FSU shot well tonight (53.3% FG, 33.3% 3PT) and that always makes the offense look good. In particular, the Seminoles really had it going from the midrange. The offense was executed very well and that led to a lot of open shots that the Noles mostly knocked down. Florida State also demonstrated exceptional decision making. There were very few forced shots and the ball moved well tonight.
It was also great to see Amaya Brown return tonight. She sustained a torn ACL against Virginia Tech on Jan. 27th and this is her second game since the injury.
Texas A&M is known for defense so it was really impressive to see FSU score 80 against them especially as the Noles weren’t particularly hot from three.
Speaking of defense, the Seminoles really showed what they can do on that end of the floor. Rotations were crisp. Fouling was kept to a minimum and perhaps most importantly the Noles won the rebounding battle 36-30. FSU really clamped down on shots inside the arc and the Aggies couldn’t make them pay from deep going 1-11 from outside the arc. Florida State is showing that it is going to be tough to beat them if you can’t challenge them at least a little bit from outside the arc. Chennedy Carter is a two-time All-SEC first team performer as well as the preseason SEC Player of the Year. FSU did a great job frustrating Carter tonight holding her to 20 points on 8-22 shooting before she fouled out.
The Big Three (Kiah Gillespie, Nausia Woolfolk and Nicki Ekhomu) are really stepping up and providing leadership. Ekhomu is really setting into her point guard position running the offense like a veteran. Woolfolk was huge tonight going to the basket without fear and displaying the ability to pull up and hit the midrange shot. Gillespie is a double-double threat every night and her overall brilliance may be enough to take this team to the next level.
Make no mistake, this was a statement game for Florida State. The Noles have looked good so far this year but it has come against questionable opposition as the strength of schedule was 259th before this game. The opposition wasn’t questionable tonight but you wouldn’t know it from the final score. Simply put, if FSU shoots this well they will be a handful for anyone.
On Thursday FSU will welcome the No. 15 Michigan State Spartans (6-1) to Tallahassee as part of the ACC-Big10 Challenge. The game will tip at 8pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.