No. 18 Florida State (2-0) defeated no. 11 Tennessee (1-1) by a 92-91 score tonight at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.
The game started off tight but the Seminoles slowly built a comfortable lead. Florida State used a 16-4 run to take a 31-16 lead with about a minute left in the first quarter. Ta’Niya Latson nailed a triple to beat the first quarter buzzer and the Noles led by a 34-20 score heading into the second quarter.
Early in the second quarter the Lady Vols hit FSU with a 10-0 run to cut the Seminole lead to 36-32 and force head coach Brooke Wyckoff to take a timeout. After the timeout the Seminoles went on a quick 7-0 run to push the lead to 43-32. Destinee Wells scored four straight points on a pair of layups to end the run. The two teams then mostly traded baskets to end the half and the Seminoles went into the locker room with a 54-46 lead.
The third quarter began with the two teams mostly trading buckets. However UT made a move midway through the quarter. A Rickea Jackson layup sparked the Lady Vols to a massive 16-2 run which allowed them to take a 74-68 lead. However, the Noles scored the last four points of the quarter to pull within two at 74-72 heading into the final stanza.
The fourth quarter was nip and tuck. Neither team could fully impose its will. Late in the game with Tennessee up a single point Jackson made a big time move going baseline for a nice layup. Florida State had the ball with less than a minute left. The Noles did what they did well all night which was move the ball and find the open player. This time it was Amaya Bonner on the wing and she nailed a huge triple with 50 seconds left to tie the game at 91. Tennessee coach Kellie Harper took a timeout on the next possession. FSU got a stop as the Lady Vols missed a jumper and a putback. Alexis Tucker was fouled after securing the rebound. Tucker split a pair of free throws to put FSU up 92-91. Tennessee had the last possession. They eventually got it to Jackson which was smart but the Seminoles played great defense forcing Jackson into a tough turnaround jumper that was contested by Amaya Bonner and Makayla Timpson. Tennessee got the rebound but the putback was no good and the Noles walked away with a massive early season victory.
O’Mariah Gordon led Florida State with 22 points and five assists. Ta’Niya Latson added 20 points and four steals. Rickea Jackson had a monster game for Tennessee with 31 points and 17 boards.
Florida State won this game with hot shooting. The Noles shot 46.6% from the field and 13-22 from deep. However, the Lady Vols almost won due in large part to a huge 47-28 advantage on the back boards. In this game it was FSU’s quickness against UT’s size.
Amaya Bonner was really big for the Seminoles down the stretch. The sophomore had 11 points in the fourth quarter going 3-4 from deep. Bonner’s emergence has been big in this young season. Bonner has the size at 6’0 and the length to be a factor defensively. She also has range on her jumper so that she can be a threat offensively.
Ta’Niya Latson played her first game of the season and she sported a rather large brace on her knee. While Latson didn’t look to be at 100% she was still able to get into the paint early and often. However, she did struggle to finish at times which led to her 9-24 shooting. She also only got to the line once. It bodes well for this team that they were able to get such an important win without a vintage (although still good) Latson performance.
I mentioned the shooting but it is also important to point out how the Noles got those shots. They were mostly uncontested due to the great ball movement we saw tonight from Florida State. The Seminoles shared the ball and were able to generate multiple open shots.
Tennessee is a team seemingly built to beat Florida State. They had a size advantage at virtually every position. They ruled the back boards and they feature an all-American type talent in Jackson. Yet, the Noles were able to earn the victory. There were five Seminoles (O’Mariah Gordon, Ta’Niya Latson, Alexis Tucker, Amaya Bonner and Makayla Timpson) in double figures. This team has star power but so far they are proving that they don’t have to be reliant on a single star. That is a very encouraging sign for the future.
Florida State will head to Gainesville on November 17th for the rivalry matchup with the Florida Gators. The game will tip at 4pm and will be broadcast on the SEC Network+.