Jan. 23, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - An epic 28-point, 22-rebound performance from Florida State senior Natasha Howard was not enough for No. 24/25 FSU as it fell to third-ranked Duke in an overtime thriller, 85-77, on Thursday evening at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Howard's biggest performance in what has been an All-American season highlighted a bevy of good efforts from the Seminoles (14-5, 2-4). The Toledo, Ohio, native's career high in points and rebounds make her the first FSU player to have a 20-20 performance since WNBA draft pick Jacinta Monroe scored 23 points and had 21 boards in her freshman debut vs. UAB on Nov. 12, 2006. It was the third 20-20 performance on record at FSU, as former player Levys Torres also joins the list with 24 points and a school-record 24 rebounds vs. Coppin State on Dec. 28, 2000.
Howard's 22 rebounds, which came against one of the country's best inside players is Duke's Elizabeth Williams, are the third-most in a single game in FSU history. Howard had 18 of her points in the second half as she teamed with several FSU players to make big buckets down the stretch in what was a hard-fought loss.
"She was incredible," FSU head coach Sue Semrau said of Howard. "She wouldn't be denied. I thought her character was absolutely amazing and we talk about Jacinta (Monroe), who has been an amazing player here, she did that in her first game as a Seminole. Nobody knew who she was and so she went up against a team that was not Duke and she was able to battle that way. Tasha (Howard), they know what Tasha can do and she did it anyway. I haven't seen a performance like that in a long time."
The `Noles led for much of the second half, with freshman Ivey Slaughter's bucket giving FSU a 51-49 lead with 13:36 remaining. Its lead swelled to eight points on a layup from Howard to make it 59-51 with 10:55 left, but the Blue Devils (19-1, 6-0) found ways to get back in the game. With 2:26 left, Duke's Tricia Liston hit a jumper that knotted the game at 69-69 to set up a dynamic finish.
It only took FSU 15 seconds following Liston's basket to retake the lead at 71-69 on another bucket from Howard. Senior Cheetah Delgado took a pass from Brittany Brown in transition and finished a fastbreak layup on the left side to put FSU ahead 73-69 with 1:33 left. However, Duke used a few free throws from Liston and a game-tying jumper from Alexis Jones with 30 seconds left to knot it at 73-73.
With the final shot in their possession and the shot clock turned off, the Seminoles opted to try and exploit what looked like an open lane to the rim from redshirt sophomore Morgan Jones. However, Williams came over from help defense and recorded one of her six blocks with 16 ticks remaining. With the final shot, Duke's Jones was forced into a long contested jumper that fell short, sending the contest to overtime.
The Blue Devils seized momentum in the extra period, outscoring FSU 12-4 to get the win. The dagger play came on a 3-ball from Liston at the right wing to put Duke ahead 80-73 with 2:48 left in overtime. It was Florida State's second OT performance against the third-ranked team in the nation, as FSU also took Louisville to extra time in a 69-59 loss on Nov. 24.
One of the most glaring statistics was the free throw discrepancy in Thursday night's thriller - Florida State shot a school-record low two free throws against Duke. The previous low was three against South Carolina in 1982 and vs. Florida in 1996. Duke struggled from the charity stripe, hitting 12 of its 22 free-throw attempts.
Proof of Howard's dominance was shown by FSU's 50 points in the paint, tied for its second highest this season. The `Noles won every specialty category, outscoring Duke in points off turnovers (20-15), second-chance points (18-8), fast-break points (12-4) and bench points (5-3).
Florida State lost for the first time this season with four players in double figures. Jones added her second double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Delgado had 11 points and six assists. Brown added 12 points and two 3-pointers while picking up four steals.
Liston led Duke with 25 points, while Williams added 20. The Blue Devils were out-rebounded by the Seminoles, 52-42, but out-shot FSU from the field, 49.3 percent to 41.9 percent. Duke's Jones had 15 assists, the most by an opponent this season. The previous high was eight from Virginia's Lexie Gerson.
FSU will look to end its four-game skid on Sunday afternoon as it welcomes ACC opponent Virginia Tech for a 2 p.m. tip-off at the Tucker Center. Sunday is Faith and Family Day and anyone who brings in a bulletin will be admitted for just $3. An FCA rally will follow post-game.
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).