TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State coach Sue Semrau said her team’s goal is to get back to earning the right to host first- and second-round games of the NCAA Tournament.
While it’s still January, Thursday’s win over No. 4 Louisville is just the kind of signature win that strengthens the Seminoles’ postseason resume.
Maegan Conwright scored 17 points and Shakayla Thomas had 13 points and 10 rebounds as No. 17 Florida State stunned No. 4 Louisville 68-63 on Thursday.
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”Any time you can beat a team with a high RPI, that definitely helps your case,” Semrau said. ”I love this team’s heart, I love their character. I love their fight.”
Florida State (18-2, 5-1 ACC) jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half but battled foul trouble and poor free-throw shooting as the Seminoles fell behind by six points in the second half.
But Florida State took advantage of Louisville’s missed free throws down the stretch. Thomas, a freshman, had a layup with 33 seconds left that put FSU ahead 65-63.
Louisville’s Megan Deines missed a 3-pointer with 1 second left that could have sent the game to overtime. The Cardinals fouled, and Thomas made two free throws to seal the victory.
It was Florida State’s biggest win since a victory in January 2009 victory over No. 3 Texas A&M.
Thursday’s win, coupled with a win over No. 15 Duke earlier in the year, gives momentum for a Seminoles team that is just beginning to mesh after the return of center Adut Bulgak (concussion) and Leticia Romero, who played her seventh game of the season after transferring from Kansas State.
Florida State led 21-1 at the 13:10 mark of the first half on a Conwright jumper, stunning Louisville as the Seminoles made 8 of their first nine shots.
”It’s 21-1,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. ”It was an embarrassment. Florida State came out and played harder than we did.”
But Louisville gradually clawed back into the game and trailed just 35-32 at halftime.
The Cardinals took their first lead with 18:44 left in the game on a Sara Hammond layup. Louisville and Florida State traded the lead throughout the second half, and the Cardinals pulled ahead 60-54 with 6 minutes left on a Mariya Moore 3-pointer.
But Florida State tied the game at 63 with 1:34 left on a free throw by Romero. Neither team scored for a minute until Thomas’ driving layup with 33 seconds left put the Seminoles ahead for good.
Hammond had 14 of her 19 points in the second half for Louisville (17-2, 5-1), knocking down 9 of 14 shots from the floor. Jude Schimmel added 14 points and eight rebounds.
Romero had nine points but made just 5 of 10 free-throw attempts.
Semrau said she had been asked before Thursday if it was a measuring stick game for the Seminoles, but she disagreed with that assessment.
”I didn’t think it was a measuring stick for us,” Semrau said. ”I felt like we were the better team – and I hope that we can get better.”
Louisville: The Cardinals struggled behind the arc, making just 3 of 13 3-pointers.
Florida State: Bulgak returned to the court after missing two games with a concussion. She had seven points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Neither team shot well from the free-throw line, leaving behind plenty of missed opportunities. Florida State made just 10 of 24 (41.7 percent), while Louisville made 14 of 25 (56 percent).
”We’re a bad free-throw shooting team,” Walz said. ”It’s a really hard concept to sit there with nobody guarding you and step up and make free throws. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching it and trying to figure out a way to get our kids to step up with confidence and make them.
”I have been telling them, `We’re going to lose a game because we don’t shoot free throws.’ ”
Florida State won despite making just 8 of 17 free-throw attempts in the second half.