AUBURN, Ala. – In a game that saw nine lead changes, the No. 14 Florida State women’s basketball team closed out a nail-biting game at Auburn Monday night with a 67-61 win over the Tigers.
As a young ballclub playing its first game in a hostile environment -- while also unleashing a brand new offense -- it was the defense, free-throw shooting and rebounding that keyed the victory over the Tigers (1-1).
The Seminoles (2-0) committed 29 turnovers but outrebounded Auburn 47-29 and shot 82 percent from the charity stripe, including four clutch makes in the final seconds.
“We knew the offense was going to be a work in progress,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “We need to get better on that end. But I was very pleased with our defensive poise out there. We outrebounded them and never gave up and that is the type of ballgame that helps you moving forward.”
Redshirt sophomore Alexa Deluzio continued her ascension into becoming FSU’s go-to scorer Monday night. She finished the game with a career-high 23 points and made all nine of her free throws.
On the heels of her memorable 20-point first-game performance, true freshman forward Natasha Howard connected for 14 points. Howard, who was named the ACC’s co-Rookie of the Week before the game, grabbed a career-best nine rebounds and two blocks.
Junior forward Cierra Bravard added 12 points and 10 rebounds for her second consecutive double-double and sophomore forward Chelsea Davis scored eight points while catching five rebounds.
Senior guard Christian Hunnicutt was critical in the hustle department as her defense limited Tigers star guard Alli Smalley to just six points on 2-for-15 shooting.
The Seminoles began the second half by closing the gap after going into halftime down by seven.
Back-to-back Howard and Deluzio triples made gave FSU a 33-32 lead. Both squads exchanged buckets back and forth before Auburn built a 54-47 lead with just under eight minutes left to play.
“We came out real aggressive to start the game but we lost that momentum,” Deluzio said. “The coaches told us at halftime to come back out and regain that aggressiveness and we did.”
At the five-minute mark, Davis rebounded a Howard 3-point attempt and laid the ball in to knot the score at 57-57. Two scoreless minutes later, two Bravard free throws gave FSU a 61-59 lead before a Tigers conversion retied it once again with 1:37 left.
After two more successful free throws by Bravard gave the Seminoles a 63-61 lead with 47 seconds left, Florida State’s talented post player then rebounded an Auburn miss on the opposite end.
Bravard then dished it off to Deluzio who was immediately fouled with 24 seconds left. After Deluzio calmly strolled to the other end of the court and sank two free throws to extend FSU’s lead to 65-61.
Florida State opened the ballgame on a nice little run as Clayton’s 3-pointer pushed the early lead to 17-8.
Auburn, however, closed the half with a 22-6 run and took a 30-23 lead into the break.
The Seminoles now return to Tallahassee for a two-game home-stand. Colorado State comes to the Donald L. Tucker Center for a 7 p.m. Thursday night contest and then FSU faces its second SEC foe of the year when Vanderbilt comes to town for a 2 p.m. game on Sunday.