Florida State (11-2) fell to no. 9 UConn (8-2) by an 85-77 score today at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.
Florida State came out ice cold early. The Seminoles missed their first eight shots. To their credit the Noles were getting good shots but they just weren’t going down. Connecticut took full advantage racing out to a 10-0 lead before a Ta’Niya Latson layup finally broke the ice for FSU with six minutes left in the first quarter. However, the Husky onslaught wouldn’t end as they would stretch the lead out to 19-5. The Noles battled back a bit but the deficit was still 26-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter went a bit better for the Noles but they still struggled to close the gap. The inside-outside duo of Aaliyah Edwards and Lou Lopez-Senechal was giving FSU fits. However, the Seminoles started to heat up a bit as Mariana Valenzuela and Erin Howard hit a few jumpers. Even so the Noles still trailed UConn 53-35 at the half and the Seminoles were at risk of getting run out of the gym.
Florida State would respond in the third quarter. The quarter started with the two teams trading baskets but then the Noles took control. Howard started it with an old-fashioned three point play. That sparked FSU to a 12-4 run to cut the lead to 63-51. Lopez-Senechal hit a pair of free throws but the Noles kept the momentum. FSU hit the Huskies with an 11-2 run that cut the lead to 67-62 with 1:20 left in the quarter. UConn ended the quarter with four straight free throws to build a 71-62 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The two teams started out the quarter trading buckets but a Howard three ball halfway through the quarter cut the lead to 76-71. The teams traded baskets until another three from Howard cut the lead to 80-76 with 3:23 left in the game. That was as close as the Noles would get however as they could only score one more point and the Huskies walked away with a hard fought 85-77 victory.
Ta’Niya Latson led the Seminoles with 24 points despite fouling out with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Erin Howard had 18 points while Makayla Timpson and Marianna Valenzuela both chipped in with 11 points each.
Florida State was without Taylor O’Brien who has been out since the Georgia State game on Nov. 13th.
UConn was missing Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd, Ice Brady and Coach Geno Auriemma.
This game was effectively decided in the first quarter when UConn jumped out to that 19-5 lead. Very few teams can dig that big of a hole to the Huskies and come back to win the game. This young Florida State team almost did it though.
Early in the game FSU couldn’t buy a bucket and they couldn’t stop UConn’s offense especially Aaliyah Edwards inside. The game turned when the Noles started turning the Huskies over and got some easy transition points. Then FSU started heating up from outside particularly Howard and Valenzuela.
I have to mention that there was a technical foul called on the FSU bench with 2:05 left in the second quarter. It effectively gave UConn four points as the Noles had the ball at the time but UConn was granted two free throws and the ball. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time as Connecticut was up 51-28 but FSU battled back in the fourth quarter and it would have been nice to have those four points back at the end of the game.
However, the story in this game (at least from an FSU perspective) is that the Noles were able to come back in a game against a very good opponent on the road after Latson and Timpson had fouled out. FSU was down 53-35 at the half and could have easily folded but this young team kept fighting and very nearly pulled off a huge upset. If the Seminoles could have converted even a couple of the good looks they got early in the game this could have been a very different contest.
Even so the Noles learned a bit about themselves today. FSU came in with a gaudy 11-1 record but the competition hasn’t exactly been a murderer’s row. The strength of schedule was south of 190 before this game (it is 166 now) so it was tough to know how good this team was since the schedule has been relatively soft. We have a better idea now.
Florida State isn’t into moral victories but they proved today that they can go toe to toe with a blueblood on the road even after a rough start.
FSU can take confidence from this performance. The Seminoles look like they are in good shape as the conference schedule begins.
Florida State will welcome Miami to Tallahassee on Wednesday. The game will tip off at noon and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.