Florida State (1-0) defeated Florida (1-1) by a 81-75 score tonight in Tallahassee, FL.
Florida State got off to a hot start in this game jumping out to an 8-2 lead after a Morgan Jones layup. The Gators responded with a pair of quick threes from Jordyn Merritt and Nina Rickards to tie the game at 8 apiece. From there the two teams mostly traded baskets until UF went on an 8-2 run to end the quarter to take a 22-16 lead into the second quarter.
The two teams traded baskets to begin the quarter until the Noles made a move. Kourtney Weber sparked FSU to a 14-3 run with an old-fashioned three point play. Jones capped the run with a layup to put the Seminoles up 30-27. From there the teams traded buckets until Savannah Wilkinson hit a jumper right before the buzzer to give FSU a 39-37 lead at the half.
The third quarter started out close but FSU was able to maintain a small lead. However, midway through the quarter the Noles hit UF with a quick 7-0 run that was capped by a Bianca Jackson jumper. Merritt immediately responded with a triple but the Seminoles still enjoyed a 54-51 lead. FSU opened up the lead again with a 5-1 mini-run but Florida ended the quarter with a jumper from Kiara Smith to cut the lead to 59-54 heading to the fourth quarter.
Florida State managed to widen the lead to 10 points after a three ball from Weber. However, UF immediately struck back with a 6-0 run. Jackson stopped the bleeding with a jumper. From there the teams mostly traded baskets until Nina Rickards and Danielle Rainey hit consecutive threes to pull the Gators within three at 75-72 with 1:46 left in the game. Only down one possession UF didn’t need to foul. On the ensuing possession the Noles missed a pair of shots but got the offensive board both times and Valencia Myers drew a foul after a putback attempt. Myers hit both free throws. Nina Rickards was called for an offensive foul to give the ball back to FSU with 1:06 left. Florida decided not to foul and FSU ran their offense against UF’s trapping defense. Myers executed a beautiful high-low dump down pass to Jones on the baseline for a layup to put the Noles up 79-72. Lavender Briggs quickly answered with another three for UF to cut the lead to 79-75 with 12 seconds left. However, Weber converted a pair of free throws to ice the game and give FSU the final 81-75 margin of victory.
Morgan Jones led FSU tonight with a career high 22 points along with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Valencia Myers, Bianca Jackson and Kourtney Weber all had 14 points apiece. Myers had a double-double as she also had 11 rebounds.
Interim Head Coach Brooke Wyckoff earned her first career victory as a head coach.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. FSU missed a bunch of layups in this game. I counted five in the first quarter alone. That obviously needs to get cleared up but this was the first game so that will probably improve. Florida State also struggled from behind the arc going 3-15. UF was 11-27 from deep and that one stat kept this game from being a blowout. The Noles also committed 18 turnovers to only 8 for Florida.
Now to the good stuff for FSU. The Seminoles absolutely killed UF on the boards outrebounding them 52-24.
“(Rebounding) was a huge emphasis.” Wyckoff said, “I have to give credit to Coach Sue (Semrau) because that is Coach Sue’s number one cornerstone of what we do. We are phenomenal rebounders and she has had some amazing rebounding teams and tonight was no different. We’ve made that an emphasis in terms of that was the one thing that we could rely on.”
If the Seminoles can really rely on this type of rebounding they will really raise the floor for how successful they can be this season.
Morgan Jones was great tonight. The junior got to the basket seemingly at will. She could have easily had 30+ points tonight but she missed a few layups. She also rebounded and played her normal strong defense. When asked about her seemingly increased level of aggression she said that she was partly taking what the defense gave her but also, “Knowing that this year not only myself but the other juniors and upper classmen need to step up this year after losing Kiah (Gillespie), Nicki (Ekhomu) and Nausia (Woolfolk) from last year so we all know that we have to step up and everyone has to score and do something to contribute.”
Bianca Jackson played her first game in Garnet and Gold tonight after transferring from South Carolina. She started at point guard and while that is not her natural position you wouldn’t know it from her performance. Jackson’s stats were good with 14 points and six boards but she was most impressive with the steadiness that she brought to the game at a position of need.
Izabela Nicoletti played her first game as a Nole after sitting out the last two years with a pair of ACL injuries. she didn’t have her best game as she was held scoreless but it was great to just see her return to the court after so much adversity. Also, she is very talented so she will very likely improve from here.
Florida State faced a lot of uncertainty going into this season losing their three tri-captains from last year. The Seminoles have been ranked in the middle of the pack in the ACC this preseason. ESPN’s Charlie Creme has them as one of the last four into the NCAA tournament in his preseason bracket. It is safe to say that the Seminoles aren’t receiving the same kind of respect that they are used to as a program.
However, this was quite an encouraging start for the home team. Of course we don’t know how good the Gators are yet but they looked noticeably improved from the last few years. Even so it was clear that FSU had the better team. Overall they didn’t look that much different in quality from what we have seen in Tallahassee in recent years. Consistency, as it was last year, will be an issue but based on the early returns this edition of the Seminoles may be better than the experts think.
FSU will welcome Austin Peay to Tallahassee on Sunday, December 6th. The game will tip at 2pm and will be broadcast by the ACC Network Extra.