Nov. 18, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Junior forward Natasha Howard's 23-point performance off the bench and another stingy defensive performance led the Florida State women's basketball team to its third consecutive blowout victory to start the season, taking down Stetson, 76-44, on Sunday at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
The 32-point win marks the first time the Seminoles have ever started a season with three consecutive victories of 20 points or more, following 30-point wins over Samford (77-42) and Florida (98-67). It's also the first time the Seminoles have won three-straight contests since a three-game win streak from Dec. 4 to Dec. 19 of 2011 when FSU took down Charlotte, Akron and Alabama A&M consecutively.
Led by Howard and senior post Chelsea Davis (22 points), the Noles outscored the Hatters 50-18 in the paint. FSU also held reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and career 16.0 ppg scorer Victoria McGowan to just two points on a pair of free throws, as she shot 0-for-10 from field.
Despite the big win, which also included the Seminoles grabbing a 46-29 edge in rebounds and an 11-0 advantage in fastbreak points, head coach Sue Semrau said the Noles still have some work to do.
"I wasn't real pleased with our effort today, and I knew it would be a trap game," Semrau said. "I knew coming off a big win over our rivals that it would be tough. But I'm really proud of these two (Natasha Howard and Chasity Clayton). I think that they did everything that we needed them to do."
Clayton and Howard led the Noles on the glass with 10 and nine boards apiece, respectively. The pair also set the pace on defense. Howard had three steals for the third straight game, while Clayton had two steals and a block.
Senior Leonor Rodriguez continued her great start, scoring 11 points, grabbing five rebounds and making three steals in 29 minutes. Junior Cheetah Delgado - earning her second career start, didn't make a basket, but helped control the game with her pinpoint passing, dishing six assists for the third consecutive contest. Delgado and senior Morgan Toles have spearheaded the Seminoles' uptempo attack this season, taking turns at the point guard position and constantly finding open teammates on the fastbreak.
"It's fun because the players don't have to think about the ball coming up the floor," Semrau said. "They just think about getting there and getting their hands up. They've been the recipients of some fun passes. Cheetah is obviously a fan-favorite and should be. She's worked extremely hard to be playing at this level at 5-2."
Stetson hung with Florida State early on Sunday. Shanasa Sanders drilled a three-pointer to put the Hatters ahead 7-4 just under four minutes into the game, but Stetson didn't hit another trey until the 3:26 mark in the second half when Jama Sharp connected on a three with the game already decided. The Hatters came in making 7.7 three-pointers per game at a 36.5 percent clip. FSU held Stetson to 2-of-18 from long range for an 11.1 percentage, however.
The Seminoles got rolling at the 15:53 mark in the first half when Delgado found Howard for a layup to jump start a 9-0 run. Howard added a pair of putbacks during the run, which gave FSU a 13-7 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the first half.
After back-to-back layups by seniors Alexa Deluzio and Clayton pushed the Seminoles lead to 25-13 with 8:09 to play before halftime, FSU used another big run - this time 12-0 - to pull ahead 37-15 at the 1:47 mark in the first frame. Rodriguez then drilled a three at the buzzer off a dish from Delgado to make the score 42-19 at the break.
A pair of layups from redshirt junior forward Lauren Coleman and Howard put the Garnet and Gold up 27 (52-25) four minutes into the second half. The Seminoles pushed the lead to 30 with a minute left in the game when Rodriguez found Howard for a layup to make the score 72-42.
Sunday's contest featured a "Scout Day" promotion. Over 250 girl scouts and boy scouts and their family members attended that game.
The Seminoles return to action Friday and Saturday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. FSU will compete in the annual San Juan Shootout against Eastern Kentucky (Friday, 2:30 p.m.) and Vanderbilt (Saturday, 5 p.m.).
For more information on Florida State women's basketball, follow the Seminoles on Twitter @FSU_WBasketball and like their official Facebook page.
Notes: The last time FSU won three straight games by 30 points or more came in the 2010-11 season when FSU routed Stetson (92-44) on Dec. 30, 2010, Missouri (75-43) on Jan. 2, 2011 and Virginia Tech (79-48) on Jan. 6, 2011...Chelsea Davis had her second career 20-point game...Natasha Howard (23 points, nine boards) was one point away from matching her career high in points (24) and a rebound shy of her 17th career double-double...Howard tallied her sixth career 20-point performance...FSU has shot over 50 percent in the second half of all three games this season.