Feb. 27, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - A scorching first half by Georgia Tech was too much for the Florida State women's basketball team to overcome on Thursday evening as it fell to the Ramblin' Wreck, 86-78, at the Donald L. Tucker Center in its second-to-last game of the regular season.
The tough loss by the Seminoles (18-10, 6-9) paints somewhat of a clearer picture for the ACC Tournament seedings. Florida State enters Sunday's regular-season finale tied with opponent Virginia for ninth-place in the conference standings.
If FSU can win Sunday's 12:30 p.m. ESPNU tip-off against UVA in Tallahassee, it is slated to earn the ninth seed at the ACC Tournament. A loss could put the `Noles in either the 10th or 11th seed, depending on the outcome of Wake Forest's matchup with Syracuse.
Against the Yellow Jackets (18-10, 8-7), Florida State got another extraordinary game from senior Natasha Howard. The senior All-America candidate reached her third 30-point game this season with 34 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 12-of-14 from the free-throw line. The Toledo, Ohio, native is just the second Seminole to record three 30-point games in a single season, joining FSU all-time leading scorer Sue Galkantas.
Teaming with Howard was her point guard Cheetah Delgado, who tied her season high with 18 points on a superb 8-of-9 shooting. Delgado added six assists, giving her 190 for the season and leaving her just nine short of breaking Courtney Ward's single-season school record of 198 in the 2009-10 season.
Florida State was doomed by its first-half defense and inability to close out on Georgia Tech's shooters. The Yellow Jackets knocked down 19-of-34 shots in the first half, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range. Junior guard Sydney Wallace drilled FSU for 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting, helping Georgia Tech reach a 23-point lead with less than a minute remaining in the first half. Wallace would leave the game with 19:33 left in the game following a neck injury she sustained while trying to block a layup by Brittany Brown.
"You have to credit Georgia Tech with the way they came out shooting the ball," FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. "Both (Kaela) Davis and (Sydney) Wallace were hot early. I don't know why we were so tentative on the defensive end. We talked about it and talked about it. I think when you look at the game these two had [Natasha Howard and Cheetah Delgado], they needed more help than they got today. Both of them I thought played like seniors. We needed something else to go with them and we didn't have it today."
In ACC play this season, Florida State's halftime deficit of 21 points (52-31) was the fifth time the `Noles allowed themselves to get behind by double digits going into the locker room. The Seminoles made a valiant comeback bid in the second half, outscoring Georgia Tech 47-34. It was the most points scored in any half by FSU this season since putting up 50 against Prairie View A&M on Nov. 17.
Florida State made the game very interesting in the final 20 minutes. It was hard for FSU to hold a dominant run against a good-shooting team like the Yellow Jackets, but a 7-0 run with 12:23 remaining was capped by a straightaway 3-pointer from Delgado that cut FSU's deficit to 62-51.
About 3 ½ minutes later, Delgado hit another jumper to cut the Georgia Tech lead to 69-59. A fastbreak layup by freshman Brittany Brown moved FSU closer to 70-63 with 7:37 remaining. A couple big 3's by Georgia Tech helped give it a 10-point lead at 79-69 with 3:10 left, but the `Noles responded with a 6-0 run that made the game competitive at 79-75 with 2:16 left.
Three crucial turnovers by FSU in the final two minutes erased any chance of a comeback, as Georgia Tech hit free throws down the stretch to ice the game. Howard and Delgado combined to score 33 of FSU's 47 second-half points.
The Yellow Jackets finished the game shooting 10-of-14 from long range, as freshman Kaela Davis added three treys and recorded 18 points. FSU held the rebounding edge at 43-32, but trailed after the first half 20-19.
Thursday's contest featured a combined 20 fast-break points, including 10 from both teams. Georgia Tech forced FSU to play quicker in its trapping, full-court press, generating 23 points off FSU's turnovers.
Howard and Delgado, along with teammates Gabi Alfonso and Sareea Freeman, will be honored on Senior Day in FSU's regular-season finale on Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
For more information on Florida State women's basketball, follow the Seminoles on Twitter at @FSU_WBasketball and like their official Facebook page (Facebook.com/FSUWomensBasketball).