April 19, 2006
2005-2006 - What a year it was for the Florida State Seminoles! To understand the accomplishments of this year's team, most notably the seniors, you have to look back at where the program was when head coach Sue Semrau arrived in Tallahassee. The season prior to Coach Sue's arrival, Florida State went 5-22 and was winless in the ACC. Four seasons ago when the Class of 2006 began at Florida State, the Seminoles had been to the Big Dance in 2000-01 but were coming off a disappointing 13-15 season. What Semrau needed were players to would take her program to the next level and keep it there.
Prior to 2004-05, there were changes to the Florida State women's basketball program. Cori Close joined the staff as Associate Head Coach and Phase Two of the program began. In Phase Two, Sue Semrau told her players to be ready for an attitudinal shift within the program. Florida State moved to a higher level of personal responsibility, selflessness, and the development of a championship mentality. Despite tremendous adversity, the Seminoles pulled together and flourished under the new system. Playing a five-guard line up, FSU finished the season with a 24-8 record and a second round NCAA Tournament appearance. Following one of the program's most successful seasons, the coaches knew they would need to get a true center and an excellent recruiting class. They would get both.
The 2005-06 season started earlier than usual for the Seminoles when the squad, including the six incoming freshmen, gathered in early August for 10 days of practice in preparation for Florida State's trip to Italy. During those 10 days, the Seminoles would realize their task ahead. Not only would they have to replace the explosiveness and leadership of departing seniors Roneeka Hodges and Linnea Liljestrand, they would have to figure out a way to mesh the six newcomers with the nine returning Seminoles. Unfortunately, due to NCAA rules, the incoming freshmen were not allowed to travel to Italy but they were never far from the Seminoles' thoughts.
On the court in Italy, the nine returning Seminoles went 4-0 and averaged 97.8 points per game and held opponents to 47.8 points per game. Alicia Gladden averaged a team-high 21.5 points per game. LaQuinta Neely averaged 9.3 assists per game, including a career-high 11 in one game. Ganiyat Adeduntan was solid averaging 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Nikki Anthony twice led the team in rebounding while Hannah Linquist led the team on the boards the final two games, including 18 in one contest. Tiffiny Buckelew had double figures in three games and hit 13 three-pointers through the four games, including 5-for-10 in one contest. Off of the court proved to be just as successful. The Seminoles created memories to last a lifetime with visits to cities like Rome, Venice, and Lake Como and places like The Coliseum, The Vatican and The Leaning Tower of Pisa. After 10 days of experiencing a new culture together, the Seminoles had built a bond with one another and they couldn't wait share it with the freshmen at home.
The Seminoles hit the ground running once back in Tallahassee. School began immediately and preseason conditioning soon thereafter. The coaches and players joked that the merging of these two groups, the veterans and the freshmen, would be much like the merging of two families. Florida State had its very own version of the Brady Bunch and knew they would have to work very hard to have the happy ending that viewers saw with each episode of the Brady Bunch.
Florida State began the season with seven straight home games which was ideal considering the youth of the team and only a two-point loss to Washington kept the Seminoles from being perfect in that stretch. The Seminoles struggled from the free throw line and went 12-for-27 in that contest. It would be an area that would plague the Seminoles all season long. Among FSU's first six wins of the season was a thrilling 82-76 victory over archrival Florida and FSU's sixth-straight Seminole Classic title. Three Seminoles earned 2005 Seminole Classic All-Tournament Team honors and for the first time in the tourney's history, a freshman earned MVP when Britany Miller, who averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, garnered the honor. Five different Seminoles were among the leaders in the scoring in the first seven games.
The Seminoles were building some continuity and getting production from a host of players and now it was time to take the show on the road. Playing on the road would be a whole new learning process for the Seminoles but it was something the team would have to become skilled at because the Seminoles were about to play 10 of their next 13 contests away from the friendly confines of the Donald L. Tucker Center. The Seminoles went 3-3 over the next three weeks, including 2-3 on the road and finished the non-conference portion of the schedule with a disappointing loss at Florida. The Seminole led at halftime of the game but were outplayed in the final 20 minutes.
Not only would the Seminoles open an ACC season on the road for the 11th time in 15 years, but five of their first seven league contests were away from Tallahassee and the first three of those five road tilts, were against Top 6 opponents. With home wins over Virginia and Clemson, teams the Seminoles now routinely beat, the Seminoles began the ACC slate with a 2-3 mark, with road losses at No. 2 Duke, No. 6 Maryland and No. 4 North Carolina. Despite falling by nine to the Tar Heels, the Seminoles were within three points with under 10 minutes to play and gave a gutsy performance. Alicia Gladden recorded the first of five double-doubles she would record in ACC play and the Seminoles returned to Tallahassee with an air of confidence and it showed on the court. Florida State won eight of the next nine games, including four ACC road games and placed fourth in the league, which for the second straight season, was rated as the No. 1-RPI ranked conference. Even more impressive was that the Seminoles recorded a program-best 10 ACC wins, including sweeps of Virginia, Clemson and rival-Miami. The last of those 10 league wins was a 71-60 victory over No. 17-ranked Boston College, the ACC newcomer. It was a special Senior Day for a special Senior Class. Coach Sue made a tent outside the Tucker Center her home for two nights until FSU sold 3,000 tickets for the BC game and Semrau's Tents for Tickets campaign brought in a record crowd of more than 3,700 fans to see the Seminoles down the Eagles. And boy did they down the Eagles! Led by Ganiyat Adeduntan's game-high 20 points, Florida State led the final 36:21 of the game. Holly Johnson scored in double figures for the ninth straight game with 15 points in her final game in Tallahassee and LaQuinta Neely was solid defensively, as always, and also chipped in six points and four rebounds. The three came out of the game at the same time to a roar of cheers from the Seminole faithful. It was indeed a night to remember!
The postseason was the start of a new season for the Seminoles. With a fourth-place ACC finish, they had accomplished one of the goals they'd set at the beginning of the year but they certainly weren't done playing. There was still more to prove. Florida State had a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament and because of the finish, had probably the toughest match-ups of the tourney with the red-hot NC State Wolfpack, the tourney's No. 5 seed. FSU leading scorer Alicia Gladden saw most of her time on the bench with three first half fouls and the Seminoles trailed six at the break. The game belonged to freshman Britany Miller who had a career-high 23 points and seven rebounds but even with her dynamic performance, the Seminoles could not get the win. They led for just one possession and a 33 percent outing at the free throw line proved to be detrimental and the Tribe fell by four points. Although severely disappointed, the Seminoles did not let the loss dampen their enthusiasm for the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles were a shoe-in but had to wait more than a week to find out when and where they'd be dancing. Selection Monday brought out the food and the fans. The Seminoles gathered to watch their name run across the ESPN screen and were elated with a No. 6 seed, a game vs. Louisiana Tech and a trip to Denver, Colorado.
The Seminoles fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Stanford, a program with rich tradition, but the Tribe's last win of the season, an 80-71 victory over No. 17 Louisiana Tech, was its best win. Holly Johnson drained clutch after clutch shots, dazzled the fans with her three-point shooting and finished the game with a career-high 25 points. Alicia Gladden recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 big rebounds. Ganiyat Adeduntan was steady and provided nine points and 10 boards. LaQuinta Neely had six rebounds and a team-high four assists and played her usual fierce defense. Tanae Davis-Cain provided a spark off of the bench and not only had 10 points but three fantastic blocks. Nikki Anthony was a force to be reckoned with inside and set the tone early that the Seminoles were not going to be pushed around. She had a career-high 10 rebounds off of the bench. As a team, the Seminoles outrebounded the Lady Techsters by 11 and hit seven three-pointers.
There was certainly a lot to celebrate in 2005-06. Back-to-back 20 win seasons and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for just the second time in school history ... a record 10 ACC wins... a top four ACC finish for the third time in four years... a record fourth-straight postseason tournament appearance and a senior class that averaged 19 wins per season during their time in the Garnet and Gold. Perhaps even more impressive, however, are the things that you won't see in the record book. Collectively, the individual strengths of the players who make up the Class of 2006 created a leadership that took Florida State women's basketball program to places it had not been before and set a standard for years to come.