GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the first time in program history the FSU Women's team is headed to the ACC Championship. It plays Notre Dame Sunday afternoon. The Noles defeated Louisville 66-51 in the semifinals on Saturday.
The No.2-seeded Seminoles (29-3) will face defending ACC champion and regular-season champion Notre Dame (30-2) for the conference crown on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. on ESPN. The Fighting Irish squeaked out a 74-68 win in South Bend in the conference opener on Jan. 2.
The ebb and flow of Saturday’s ACC Tournament Semifinal was very familiar to the first meeting between FSU and the Cardinals (25-6), won by FSU 68-63. Florida State jumped out to a 33-9 lead with 5:34 left in the first half before Louisville closed out the half on a 17-6 run to cut its deficit to 39-26 at halftime. In the second half, the Cardinals continued to play lock-down defense and cut the FSU lead to 45-43 on a 3-point field goal by Mariya Moore with 9:11 left.
While Florida State tried to hang on for dear life through those first 11 minutes of the second half, it began executing its offense with big baskets following Louisville’s two-point deficit. Redshirt senior Maegan Conwright nailed a huge 3-point field goal that started a quick 7-0 run to give the Noles a little breathing room. Conwright then came back with a straightaway 3-pointer that gave FSU a double-digit lead once again at 55-45 with 3:55 remaining.
“I just want to give a ton of credit to Louisville. We started off really strong, shooting the ball very well, and they fought,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “They battled. They made it a 2 point game and then Maegan Conwright, dang. I mean
just the guts, I mean it was like she had ice water in her veins when she stepped up and knocked down that three. I thought that changed all the momentum.”
Over the final 5 ½ minutes, Louisville managed just two made field goals as Florida State got back to its suffocating defense to withstand the Cardinal rally.
Conwright finished with 12 points, most notably her two dagger 3-point field goals. Sophomore forward Ivey Slaughter matched the toughness of Louisville’s post players and led FSU with 17 points, five rebounds and a career-best three blocked shots. Slaughter also drew her 42nd and 43rd charges and put pressure on UofL’s interior. Louisville entered the game averaging 40.1 points in the paint, but FSU won the battle inside 28-26.
Slaughter also helped ice the game down the stretch with big free throws. The Macon, Ga., native made 7 of 10 from the line.
“It is a great feeling and this is my second year,” Slaughter said of reaching the ACC Championship. “And actually going to the championship and going through a game like this game, showing how hard you have to fight and never back down, it’s just a great feeling to see the hard work actually paid off.”
A few other milestones were reached on Saturday – FSU tied its single-season record for wins with 29, matching the 2009-10 Elite Eight team’s record (29-6). The Seminoles earned their fourth Top 25 victory of the season, tying a program record set by the 2008-09 squad.
FSU continues to be the only Division I men’s or women’s program to out-rebound every opponent faced, edging Louisville on the glass 39-35 which included 14 offensive rebounds. While the Cardinals are careful with the basketball, Florida State forced 18 turnovers and limited UofL to just 35.7 percent (20-of-56) from the field.
Freshman Shakayla Thomas added 12 points, five rebounds and one block for FSU.
Saturday’s result is the first time FSU has won multiple games at the ACC Tournament
The Seminoles displayed some good half-court defense early as it held a 6-2 lead against the Cardinals through the first media timeout. Louisville’s defense proved tough in the early going as well, but Slaughter led the Noles with four points.
A beautiful full-court attack resulted in a three-pointer from the corner by Emiah Bingley with 11:40 left to give FSU a 17-4 lead against the Cardinals. Four players touched the ball on the fast break as Thomas rebounded the missed shot, passed it to Shakena Richardson, who then fed it to Morgan Jones and she finished with an open pass to Bingley in the corner.
FSU’s 55.2 percent shooting (16-of-29) in the first half was a catalyst to its second win of the season over UofL, needing a hot start to help stave off the Cardinal rally in the second half.