No. 8 Florida State (12-0) defeated No. 24 Michigan (9-2) by a 79-69 score today at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.
Both teams started out slow in this game but Michigan was able to slowly build a lead. The Wolverines did so with a 10-0 run over four and a half minutes that was capped by a Naz Hillmon layup. River Baldwin broke the run with a pair of free throws but the Noles were still facing a 12-5 deficit. The Seminoles then went on a run as they scored 10 of the last 14 points of the quarter to cut Michigan’s lead to 16-13 going into the second stanza.
The two teams started the second quarter trading baskets. The Seminoles went on a mini-run late in the quarter to take a 31-27 lead on a layup from Baldwin. However, UM ended the half on a 5-0 run as Amy Dilk beat the buzzer with a layup. The Wolverines took a 32-31 lead into halftime.
The two teams started the second half the same way they started the game: cold. However, Kiah Gillespie broke the ice with a jumper to give the Noles a 33-32 lead. Gillespie’s jumper sparked the Noles to a quick 6-0 run that was broken by a layup from Hillmon but FSU still lead at 37-34. The game stayed close after that until Nausia Woolfolk and Amy Dilk traded triples to end the quarter. Florida State was nursing a slim 50-48 lead heading into the fourth.
FSU quickly stretched the lead to six due to a layup from Valencia Myers and a jumper from Gillespie. UM stayed close with four quick points of their own. After that the Seminoles made a move. FSU went on an 8-0 run on the strength of six straight points from Woolfolk and a putback from Morgan Jones. Florida State had a 62-52 lead with 5:47 left in the quarter. Kayla Robbins stepped up for UM with five straight points of her own to cut FSU’s lead in half. The Wolverines crept even closer after Dilk hit a free throw. Neither team was able to get the upper hand as they traded baskets for a couple of minutes. FSU had a three point lead with about a minute and a half left in the game when the Noles hit UM with an 8-0 run that took only 44 seconds. The Seminoles had a 76-65 lead with only 29 seconds left in the game and after that the Noles coasted to the 79-69 victory.
Kiah Gillespie led FSU with her first career triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. The 10 assists were a career high. It was the first triple double for Florida State since 2015 and only the third all time.
Nausia Woolfolk led the Noles in scoring with 21 points while River Baldwin and Valencia Myers chipped in with 12 and 10 points respectively.
With the win FSU has matched their best start in school history as the 2004-05 team also started with 12 straight wins.
FSU started slow in this game as the Noles seemed to struggle with UM’s length. The Wolverines have five starters who are all six feet or taller and they were able to bother the Noles initially. However, the game changed when Sue Semrau inserted Baldwin into the game. The 6’5 freshman immediately used her size effectively and the Wolverines had no answer.
Michigan clearly had a strategy not to let Gillespie beat them. Gillespie faced routine double (or triple) teams whenever she got the ball in scoring position; from inside the free throw line. Gillespie then displayed her poise and unselfishness as she repeatedly found open teammates for layups.
Later in the game Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico started pressuring FSU full court trying to force turnovers. That strategy largely backfired as the Noles not only didn’t turn the ball over they often beat the pressure for open layups. Woolfolk was especially potent in this stretch taking the ball right to the basket. The reason that the strategy backfired was that going to the pressure sped the game up and made it more open which played into the hands of FSU’s quicker guards (Nausia Woolfolk and Nicki Ekhomu).
The other major reason for the win is that FSU is a deeper team. Both teams played nine players but FSU had eight players play at least 17 minutes and that was with Gillespie and Ekhomu playing 39 minutes each. Michigan only had six players play at least 15 minutes and four of their starters played at least 34 minutes. That lack of depth showed up late in the game during the 8-0 run. FSU’s depth also helped early as River Baldwin off the bench sparked the Noles when they were struggling. Baldwin’s contributions kept Florida State afloat until the Big 3 were able to take over late. Simply put, FSU has many players capable of making important contributors from game to game and that is hard for an opposing team to prepare for.
This team is finding ways to win. Having experienced seniors in the backcourt really helps but FSU has shown resiliency and heart that will serve them well in March. This team has passed every test so far but a tough ACC schedule looms ahead.
Florida State will take a week off for the holidays before welcoming Virginia Tech to Tallahassee on December 29th. The game will tip at 2pm and will be broadcast on Fox Sports.