GREENSBORO, N.C. (Seminoles.com) – The sixth-seeded Florida State Women’s Basketball team did not go down without a fight on Friday night, falling to No. 3 seed NC State, 69-62, in a hard-fought ACC Tournament Quarterfinal at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“I want to compliment NC State. What Wes (Moore) has done with that team, they just continue to fight and played great defense,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said post-game. “It was a great experience for us, though. It was an experience with a very young team to come in and play a top 10 team and to compete at that level. You could see the immaturity in our team. We’ll continue to grow, and this will be a great teaching tool going forward to the NCAA Tournament.”
Junior guard Nicki Ekhomu gave the Wolfpack (26-4) problems through most of the evening, finishing with a game-high 23 points as she nearly willed the Seminoles (23-8) to a comeback. With FSU trailing 63-53 with 1:12 remaining, freshman Kourtney Weber drilled a 3-point field goal, and Ekhomu followed with a 3-pointer of her own following an NC State turnover to cut the deficit to just 63-59 with 50 seconds left.
Following two free throws from NC State’s Kiara Leslie, Ekhomu drilled another 3-pointer to make it 65-62 Wolfpack with 37 seconds left. FSU, however, was unable to convert on its next offensive possession as NC State salted the game away.
Junior guard Nausia Woolfolk added 11 points for the Seminoles. Redshirt junior forward Kiah Gillespie recorded another double-digit rebound performance, adding 11 boards, eight points and two blocks.
NC State center Elissa Cunane scored 22 points to lead the Wolfpack. FSU hung tough with a very good rebounding team but ultimately fell in the category, 38-32.
Freshman guard Morgan Jones chipped in with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting for the Seminoles. Weber hit two 3-point field goals and was strong defensively for FSU.
Semrau was asked about how Florida State has defied the expectations so far despite the immense youth and numerous injuries.
“And how could you, with the youth and then the three major injuries that we had,” Semrau said when asked how many did not expect FSU to be at its current point. “Makes me very proud. My juniors have carried a very heavy load and done a great job doing it, to be in a position to go and compete in the NCAA Tournament with this young team. Really excited to have 23 wins on the year and 10 in the ACC. I think they have accomplished a lot this year.”
Florida State bounced back to go on a strong run to finish the first quarter, making five of its last six and taking a 24-20 lead. After Gillespie nailed her second 3-point field goal of the game, Woolfolk followed with another triple from the corner to help FSU take a 20-14 lead. A pair of Ekhomu free throws gave the Seminoles a 22-15 advantage, but NC State closed well by scoring on its next two possessions to cut its deficit to four.
NC State’s defense tightened up considerably, holding the Seminoles to just seven points in the second quarter. FSU managed to stay within striking distance by trailing 35-31 at halftime, with Ekhomu leading the Seminoles with 11 points headed into the break. NC State did much of its damage inside with 18 first-half points in the paint, but FSU countered with four made 3-point field goals.
A closing 10-0 run by the Wolfpack made it difficult for the comeback, as it took a 50-39 lead over the Seminoles heading into the fourth. FSU defended well, but was unable to execute a string of possessions against a sturdy defensive squad like NC State.
The Seminoles can look forward to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Show held on Monday, March 18, at 7 p.m. on ESPN. The latest ESPNW Bracketology projections have FSU as a No. 6 seed. The team will be hosting a watch party that is open to the public at the President’s Box located at Doak Campbell Stadium, with doors opening at 6 p.m.