March 25, 2013
WACO, Texas -- For the Florida State women's basketball team, the task is tall.
And fresh off their first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Princeton Sunday night, the Seminoles' (23-9) are well aware of the giant that now awaits them with a Sweet 16 berth on the line: Overall No. 1 seed and defending national champion, Baylor (33-1).
Winners of 31 consecutive ballgames this season and 56 straight contests on their own floor at the Ferrell Center where they'll square off with the 'Noles Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, the Bears represent the challenge of all challenges. The game will mark Baylor superstar 6-foot-8 senior Brittney Griner’s final time in her own arena and head coach Kim Mulkey has been calling for the Waco community to purchase as many tickets as possible to say goodbye.
Despite all of that, though, Florida State knows it's not about record streaks, a record-breaking player or a record crowd.
"It's about how hard we play," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "The kids are really coming together at this point because of a lot of hard work in the off-season and during the season. It's fun to see them go out and play hard."
The 'Noles aren't particularly deep as a team but they boast a bevy of upperclassmen leaders that have played in these types of environments against a juggernaut before.
Alexa Deluzio, Chasity Clayton, Natasha Howard and Chelsea Davis all played against UConn in 2010 when the Huskies set college basketball's record for consecutive wins in front of more than 16,000 fans at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. Deluzio, Clayton and Davis also competed against the No. 1-seeded Huskies in the Regional Final in Dayton, Ohio three years ago.
"We're not facing just Brittney Griner, we're facing the whole team," Howard said Monday. "We have to come out prepared, starting today in practice and making sure we are on the same page today and starting tomorrow."
While Griner deservedly gets the most attention, Howard's right; this Baylor squad doesn't have just one weapon at its disposal.
Accompanying Griner's 23.9 points per game is guard Odyssey Sims, who averages 12.5 points per contest and is shooting nearly 34 percent from 3-point range. Brooklyn Pope pours in 10.2 points per game as part of the talented trio and the Bears as a team shoot 51.6 percent from the field.
"They have great pressure," Semrau said. "It starts with Odyssey [Sims] and their wings. We used to have a kid back there that was 6'6" and it covers a lot of sins. You've got kids that drive by and then it's, 'Hey, welcome to the paint.' So we have some things we like to do and we'll make a few adjustments. The best thing about our team is that we're versatile. We don't have to play with a traditional style.
"I don't think that would be extremely effective against Baylor."