TALLAHASSEE, Fl. — No. 19 Florida State Women’s Basketball dropped its ‘Senior Day’ game on Sunday afternoon, falling to Notre Dame, 70-67, in front of 4,360 fans at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Although the loss will sting for the Seminoles (22-7, 11-7), Florida State did clinch its fifth double bye in the ACC Tournament over the last six years. FSU is locked into the No. 4 seed and will face the winner of the No. 5 (Virginia Tech) vs. No. 12 (UNC)/13 (Wake Forest) game on Friday at 11 a.m. in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. The game will air on several of the league’s regional sports networks.
“We’ve got to throw it away,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said of Sunday’s loss. “We’ve got plenty of basketball ahead of us right now. We know where we sit with our seed and we have the opportunity to get the double bye and now we have to get ourselves ready. We’ve really got nothing to lose.”
Prior to the start of the game, Florida State women’s basketball honored their graduating senior class of Nicki Ekhomu, Nausia Woolfolk, and Kiah Gillespie for their leadership, commitment, and contributions to the program.
Florida State then concluded senior day in heartbreaking fashion, with an 11-point lead by the Seminoles in the second half being erased as Notre Dame shot 57.1 percent (16-of-28) in the game’s final 20 minutes.
The offensive production was stagnant throughout the first quarter, as the conference opponents both shot under 40 percent. The only early offense can be credited to seniors Woolfolk and Gillespie, who scored all of Florida State’s first quarter points.
The Seminoles used a 10-0 run midway through the second quarter to secure the 35-30 lead at halftime. The scoring outbreak was highlighted by two of Woolfolk’s four threes on the afternoon. The duo of Woolfolk and Gillespie combined for 29 of Florida State’s 35 first half points. Gillespie sent the crowd into a frenzy when she hit a half-court buzzer beater to create the five-point cushion.
Woolfolk finished with 20 points, adding six rebounds and three assists.
Gillespie was once again dominant for the Seminoles. The All-ACC team candidate scored 22 points and pulled down seven rebounds. It marked the second time FSU had two players score 20+ points in a game this season, with Woolfolk (21) and Ekhomu (20) doing it in a win over UNC.
Ekhomu contributed six assists and five rebounds to couple with her six points on the afternoon. The senior guard drew a shooting foul beyond the 3-point arc with FSU trailing 69-66 with 1.5 seconds left. However, she missed the first attempt, made the second and then tried to force an offensive rebound off a miss on the third attempt but the Seminoles were called for a lane violation.
The second half would prove be a back-and-forth affair, highlighting the nature of most of the conference games. The Florida State lead rose to as much as 11 in the third quarter, but the Irish responded with a 10-2 run to conclude the third quarter that cut the Florida State advantage to two points going into the final quarter. Notre Dame’s Sam Brunelle led all scorers with 25 points and hit a clutch 3-point field goal to close the third.
Sophomore guard Morgan Jones provided a spark for the Seminoles in the fourth quarter, scoring all of her eight points in the final frame. However, it would not be enough as FSU could not solve Notre Dame’s ability to get to the basket.
“We gave up plain lane drives,” Semrau added. “I had talked about that ad nauseam and you can’t give that up, especially layups. That was tough. It felt like we were both able to score and we’ve got to find a way to get stops.”
The Irish regained the lead with two minutes remaining in the fourth. The lead would hold true as the Irish rode its hot shooting the second half.
Notre Dame out-scored Florida State 40-32 in the second half. Brunelle led the Irish, scoring 25 points while adding four assists and four rebounds. The Seminoles won the close battle on the glass, but the Irish would outperform their hosts in assists, points in the paint, and points off turnovers.
Despite the loss, Gillespie summed up her FSU experience after playing her final regular-season home game.
“It’s meant everything to me,” Gillespie said. “Not many people get a second chance and I was fortunate enough to be able to do that with a great coach and a great coaching staff and great players. Everything I’ve done on the basketball court is nothing compared to the person it’s made me while I’ve been here.
“I think that’s the best part about Florida State. I’m more prepared to go out into the real world; I’m excited for it because I’ve taken the time to learn from Coach Sue and understand everything she’s taught me. Basketball aside, Florida State has been my life and I’m blessed to be a Seminole.”
Florida State will now watch how the rest of the field plays out before having the chance to win the program’s first post-season conference title. The ACC Tournament will be held March 4-8 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The recap of all Florida State action can be found on Seminoles.com.