TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a back-and-forth thriller at the Tucker Center, the Florida State Women’s Basketball team secured a big win after defeating No. 22 Georgia Tech, 65-63, in overtime in front of a boisterous crowd on Thursday night.
Emotions were already high on Senior Night as five members including Tiana England, Bianca Jackson, Morgan Jones, Valencia Myers and Kourtney Weber were honored before the game. England was able to get her first action of the season by getting the starting nod.
But the night will be remembered for a tough, physical battle that the Seminoles (15-12, 9-8) won in exhilarating fashion.
“It was the same type of game at Georgia Tech, and we came up three points short (that game),” FSU Head Coach Sue Semrau said. “The free throw line switched from that game to this game. We felt like we needed to attack and we needed to put them in a situation where they had to guard our penetrators.
“I can’t say enough about River Baldwin – she sprinted I don’t know how many times from the block to go set a ball screen that allowed us to get that penetration. I think defensively I was really proud of the way we played. We had scoring droughts and (Georgia Tech) is a really good defensive team. To find a way to win was big.”
The Yellow Jackets (19-9, 10-7) entered the game ranked 23rd in the NET, giving FSU another important Top 25 victory. Senior Morgan Jones was the catalyst with 21 points and 10 rebounds – her fifth career double-double. Jones is now 13 points shy of becoming the 39th 1,000-point scorer in FSU history.
Baldwin was a difference maker in the post, scoring eight points with eight rebounds and holding a strong defensive position all game and in critical moments. She helped hold Georgia Tech’s Lorela Cubaj to just one point while going 0-for-6 from the floor. She also had some key 1-on-1 defensive segments down the stretch where the Yellow Jackets couldn’t score.
The physical nature of junior guard Sara Bejedi was a boost for the Seminoles against Georgia Tech’s strength. She recorded 10 points with three assists and two steals, hitting two 3-point field goals.
With 3:10 remaining in regulation, Baldwin tied up the game at 51-51 on a layup, and Bejedi extended the lead with a couple made free throws to give the Seminoles a 53-51 lead. Georgia Tech’s Lotta Maj-Lahtinen then sank a 3-point field goal to put Georgia Tech back ahead, but FSU’s Jackson hit 1 of 2 after getting fouled to tie the game again at 54-54.
Georgia Tech’s Sarah Bates collided with Bejedi with just 11 seconds remaining on FSU’s offensive possession, committing a foul that resulted in Bejedi temporarily exiting the game. Sammie Puisis came in for the Seminoles and hit both free throws, but GT’s Eylia Love came back with a basket of her own to make it 56-56 and headed to overtime.
Key defensive stops are what helped elevate FSU to the win. Jackson then came off a screen and hit a big shot just outside the paint to put the Seminoles ahead 65-61 with 55 seconds left.
Digna Strautmane, who went 7-of-9 on the night, followed with a basket to cut the GT deficit to 65-63 with 39 seconds remaining in overtime. While FSU could not capitalize on its own end, it forced a tough offensive possession where Georgia Tech couldn’t get a shot off in time to end the game and start the on-court celebration.
“There was a lot of cheering (after the game),” Bejedi said. “But most importantly we told ourselves that ‘Hey, this is what we’re capable of doing.’ That was the main conversation we were having, and we’re looking forward to the next game.”