Women's Hoops Looking to Make Sunday Sweet
By Seminoles.com contributor Ariya Massoudi
A trip to the Sweet 16 is on the line.
No. 3 seed Florida State is looking to reach the round for the third straight year as they host No. 6 seed Missouri on Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Seminoles (26-6) have had a special season already, but are focused on the Tigers (22-10), who enter the second round matchup on a bit of a high after a buzzer beating lay-in against No. 11 seed USF on Thursday.
“I’m really excited playing a tremendous Missouri team,” FSU coach Sue Semrau said at the team’s press conference. “They play extremely well, they’re talented and (head coach) Robin (Pingeton) does a great job with her program. We are looking forward to a really fun atmosphere.”
The Tigers finished third in the SEC in 2017 and are led in scoring by First Team All-SEC guard Sophie Cunningham, who averages 17.5 points per game and shoots 38 percent (46-121) from behind the three-point line.
In the post the Noles will look to stop 6-4 forward Cierra Porter, who notched a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) in the opening round win over USF. The Tigers have a blend of solid guard play and interior bigs that will present a challenge similar to an ACC opponent FSU has played against this year.
“Missouri is a team that is like Duke, they play (almost) the same and have a really good guard in number three (Sophie Cunningham) and she reminds us of Rebecca Greenwell (Duke),” FSU forward Ivey Slaughter said. “It’s going to take a team effort and a team effort on defense.”
The Seminoles, playing in front of their home crowd of 4,147 on Thursday night, used surges of energy fueled by their fans to sprint past Western Illinois in the first round. FSU is hoping with more people back in Tallahassee, an even larger crowd will be present against the Tigers.
“It does really make it fun to think of what it could be tomorrow night when everyone is back in town,” Semrau said. “It got loud last night when we made a run. That was part of the energy that our players needed and we need that tomorrow night.”
Florida State’s team chemistry has been an essential part of the team’s success thus far and the Noles are hoping it will carry them through another tough matchup with much at stake.
“The team chemistry has been really great this year. Everyone wants to play, but people are not putting themselves first, they’re putting the team first,” forward Ama Degbeon said. “Everyone has just bought in so much, it’s just such a great chemistry this year.”
“It’s so fun to coach when you have players that want the team to succeed no matter who gets the credit,” Semrau added. “You look at players who were the best where they came from and to be able to set aside their own personal credit and accomplishments for the team is what athletics are all about and those are the teams that are most successful.”
FSU’s size and athleticism will be a key factor in the contest. The Noles used tenacious crashing of the boards to overwhelm the Leathernecks in the first round and will attempt to repeat that success against the Tigers.
“It is going to be a tough match up,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “We have seen them play at a high level, and the film I got to watch showed a really talented team who plays very unselfish, they go deep into their bench, and are extremely athletic.
The Seminoles have been resilient at home all season and with one last opportunity to play in the Donald. L Tucker Center, hope to leave it all on the floor Sunday night.
“Hosting at home is a great accomplishment for us and we know that we play really well at home,” Slaughter said with a smile.
“I would just like to thank the city of Tallahassee. They’re tremendous. Every home game we have they’re here and it really pushes us to keep accomplishing.”