(AP) – Coach Sue Semrau entered this season at Florida State with the challenge of getting a roster of talented transfers on the same page so they could learn to play together.
”From the very beginning, we said it was going to be about unity,” said Semrau, 342-217 for a .614 winning percentage in 18 seasons. ”If we could connect the dots, then we could be a very special basketball team.”
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The Seminoles (29-4) start NCAA Tournament play Saturday on their home court as a second seed – their highest ever – against Alabama State (17-14), which won the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament to earn a No. 15 seed.
”We made a name for ourselves,” said senior Seminoles guard Maegan Conwright, a transfer from Kentucky and Florida State’s top 3-point shooter.
The new Seminole hybrid is comprised of players from six states, Spain, Germany and Canada.
That diversity has given Florida State plenty of balance offensively. Center Adut Bulgak (Edmonton, Alberta) averages team highs of 12.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, while Conwright is at 11.7 points and 3.3 assists. Ivey Slaughter averages 11.2 points and 6.3 boards, Leticia Romero (Las Palmas, Spain) is at 10.3 points, 5.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds, and three other Seminoles are between 6.8 and 9.9 points per game.
Florida State freshman Shakayla Thomas – a Sylacauga, Alabama native who knows several of Alabama State’s players well – averaged 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds while playing slightly more than 19 minutes a game and was honored with the best ”sixth man” award in the ACC.
Florida State is itching to get back on the court after what will be 12 days off.
"The anticipation is high," Semrau told the school’s official website. "It can’t come fast enough."
Alabama State sophomore Britney Wright was named MVP of the SWAC tourney. For the season, she averaged 17.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
"I am excited about this opportunity for our team and for Alabama State University," coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. "It’s an honor being the 15th seed for our team and the conference. That shows we are respected by the NCAA. It’s a great challenge. … We are excited once again about this."
Alabama State’s 6-foot-2 junior center, Jasmine Peeples, is the lone player in the tournament averaging double figures in rebounds with 10.2 per game.
Florida State has won 11 straight first-round NCAA games dating to the 1991 season, while Alabama State makes its second NCAA appearance and first since 2003.
The Seminoles have won three straight matchups with the Lady Hornets to give them a 3-2 series lead. The most recent came Nov. 12, 2010, by an 89-39 score to give Florida State a 43.4-point margin of victory in the three wins.