TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (Seminoles.com) – Redshirt junior forward Kiah Gillespie introduced herself to the Fresh From Florida Sunshine Showdown the best way she could. Her 19 points and nine rebounds led Florida State Women’s Basketball to a hard-fought 63-56 win over rival Florida on Sunday afternoon at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Gillespie made some big plays in the second half, with 12 of her 19 coming in the third and fourth quarters to put the Gators (0-2) away. The Seminoles (3-0) have now won three straight over their rivals, eight of the last 10 and five straight in Tallahassee.
For Gillespie, she doesn’t mind shouldering the scoring load and believes many of her looks are attributed to the help she receives.
“I credit a lot of that to my teammates,” Gillespie said of being the team’s biggest scorer. “Them getting me open and doing what they have to do has gotten me a lot of easy shots. Without them doing that, I wouldn’t have as many points as I have. Once teams zone in on me, I can kick out, and we can keep rolling.”
While the Gators’ last three trips to Tallahassee have seen an average losing margin of 27.3 points, Sunday’s result was far different. A gritty first half saw UF take a slim 28-27 advantage, which was actually kept close by a 7-0 FSU run to end the half.
Perhaps the biggest turning point came early in the third quarter with the play of freshman center Valencia Myers. She ignited a 6-0 run by herself that took a 28-27 deficit and turned it into a 33-28 lead. The freshmen forward raised her game in the second half as well, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. She has double-figure point totals in all three games.
“I feel like we answered every time they came down,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “I feel like (Delicia) Washington did a tremendous job going one on one with our post player, and then zone. I thought Funda (Nakkasoglu) does a good job of finding openings, and we lost her a few times. But they lost some of us too. For an early-season game, it was a great battle for both teams.”
Junior guard Nicki Ekhomu found other ways to contribute at the point guard spot, shelling out eight assists to only three turnovers in 37 minutes. Through three games, she has 17 assists to just six turnovers.
Sophomore guard Savannah Wilkinson, whose role has changed a bit as she battles in the post more, came up with six rebounds including a final offensive board with 41 seconds left as FSU clung to a 62-56 lead.
Redshirt senior guard Funda Nakkasoglu led all scorers with 21 points, while UF’s Delicia Washington added 12. The Gators held a 10-point lead at 18-8 early in the second quarter, their largest lead over the Seminoles since 2015. However, FSU’s half-closing run coupled with big stops in the second half highlighted the rivalry win.
Having to play the Gators on one-day preparation and finishing an opening week with three games played, Semrau is embracing the grind that is the season.
“If it were different outcomes it might have felt like a concern,” Semrau said of the three-game opening week. “I love that we’ve been able to play – we needed to play. The only way to grow up is to play in these situations, and I thought that this was a great game.
“My schedule coordinator gave us one-day prep between North Florida and Florida, and that’s what happens in the NCAA Tournament so you might as well get prepared now.”
FSU shifts its focus to Jacksonville for a home matchup on Thursday at 7 p.m.