CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The defensive play of redshirt senior guard Maegan Conwright, coupled with a few of her big plays, sparked the No. 7/7 Florida State Women’s basketball team to a 65-56 win at Virginia on Sunday afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena. The Noles got back on track after losing their 9 game winning streak at North Carolina.
The Seminoles (23-3, 10-2) clung to a 36-31 halftime lead as UVA freshman guard Mikayla Venson drilled four 3-pointers to keep the Cavaliers (15-10, 5-7) in the game. A defensive adjustment in the second half included putting Conwright on her, and the veteran guard held Venson to just 1-of-4 the rest of the way with suffocating defense.
“This was a huge win for us having back to back road games,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “This one was important. Maegan’s lock-up job defensively was huge for us. She did a great job.”
Conwright finished with four 3-point field goals for 12 points, added a career-best seven assists, had one block and two steals. The Arlington, Texas, native was responsible for two of the biggest plays of the game. Conwright hit a big 3-pointer from the corner with 3:47 left to give the Noles breathing room at 59-50 as they held on for a 51-50 lead nearly four minutes earlier.
Conwright also recorded a huge blocked shot with FSU leading 59-54 as the shot clock was winding down for UVA. The play with 1:27 left resulted in a fast-break layup from Conwright to Brittany Brown to give FSU a 61-54 lead with 1:23 left. She also had a big steal in transition late in the game that quelled UVA’s chances for a transition bucket.
The win for FSU was its first in Charlottesville since Feb. 7, 2011, having lost its three previous games at Virginia. The Noles reached double-digit wins in ACC play for the seventh season and has their sights on the school-record win total of 12 from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
Four double-figure scorers aided the Seminoles tremendously, including sophomore Ivey Slaughter’s 14 points, five rebounds and strong post interior defense. Junior Adut Bulgak fell one rebound shy of her 13th double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds, but benefited FSU greatly in the first half and kept the pressure on UVA’s post players.
Sophomore Leticia Romero tied her career high with nine assists and sophomore Brittany Brown stepped up big with 12 points (5-of-9) with five rebounds. Brown’s enormous 3-point field goal with 4:56 left gave FSU a 56-50 lead and helped solve UVA’s switch to the 2-3 zone in the second half.
FSU finished the game shooting 45.3 percent (24-of-53), while UVA shot 46.5 percent (20-of-43). The Noles outrebounded the Wahoos 33-21, including 14-3 on the offensive glass, and held a 22-12 advantage in the paint. Virginia was led by Venson’s 15 points and Aliyah Huland El’s 14 points.
Virginia cut the lead to 51-49 on a pair of free throws by Aliyah Huland El as it made its last three shots at the 7:38 mark. However, FSU used its zone-busting guards to shoot over the top of the zone, as Brown and Conwright connected on 3-pointers to give the Noles a 59-50 lead with 3:43 remaining.
Romero’s offense came to life in the second half both teams played strong defense to start. Romero hit her first jumper in the lane and followed with another one at the 16:54 mark to give FSU a 40-34 lead through the first media timeout of the second half. There wasn’t much scoring after that as the play became even more physical, but a corner jumper from Slaughter helped FSU go into a media timeout leading 42-36 with 11:50 left.
Florida State took a 36-31 lead at halftime as both teams shot well through the first 20 minutes. Venson shouldered the scoring load with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting beyond the arc. Bulgak led the way for the Seminoles with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and eight rebounds. It was Bulgak’s 18th double-figure game of the season.
FSU shot 48 percent (14-of-29) going into halftime while UVA hit 50 percent (12-of-24). The Noles were on fire from three point land burying five 3-point field goals, including tow from Conwright. Her last 3 was her 49th of the season, tying for the 12th most on the FSU single-season list.
The Noles had 11 assists on their 14 made field goals at the half, find each other for good looks and sharing the ball very well. At the 6:02 mark of the first half Emiah Bingley hit a triple from the corner to elevate FSU to a 26-14 advantage, marking the 16th straight game it has held a double-digit lead. Virginia stormed back with an 8-0 run headlined by a couple 3-pointers from Venson, but Slaughter’s tough bucket inside helped the Noles to a 29-22 advantage with 3:46 left.
Shakayla Thomas’ layup with 1:47 left capped a quick 5-0 run for FSU to make it 34-25, but late in the half Virginia stayed resilient. It got a three-point play inside from Lauren Moses with 26 seconds left to help create the 36-31 halftime score.