Long Beach, CA - A balanced effort by the No. 24/23 Florida State women’s basketball team resulted in a 72-57 win at Long Beach State to claim the Long Beach Classic championship on Saturday night at the Walter Pyramid.
Senior Natasha Howard recorded her 31st career double-double to tie former player Sue Galkantas (1981-84) for the school record. Howard scored 16 points, added 15 boards and poured in two blocks and two steals. Howard was named the Long Beach Classic MVP, while senior guard Cheetah Delgado was also named to the all-tournament team.
Howard’s 15 rebounds tied a team high for the season, which was established by Ivey Slaughter when she had the same amount against Miami-Ohio.
“We are happy to get this win tonight and come away with a tournament championship,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “I thought we shot a lot better than our first game here and defensively we got after it and pressured well. We’re happy to be 11-1 heading into the holiday break but we know we have more work to do.”
The win for the Seminoles (11-1) extends their win streak to seven games, and Florida State improves to 10-2 in regular-season tournament games since the 2009-10 season. The ‘Noles look to get through their “pre-season” non-conference portion of the schedule with just one loss, which would be just the third time in school history they’ve done that since joining the ACC in the 1991-92 campaign.
Delgado was an excellent distributor and reached double-digits for the seventh time this season, tying her career high with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting. She also picked up eight assists and ran the offense well when the 49ers (7-5) looked to pressure and trap at different points in the game.
Florida State shot 48.2 percent from the field and held the 49ers to just 26.7 percent from the floor. Once again, FSU took advantage of its physicality inside by producing 30 points in the paint compared to Long Beach State’s 16. The ‘Noles held a wide rebounding edge, 48-31.
Redshirt sophomore Morgan Jones added 14 points for the ‘Noles, her 10th double-digit game of the season. For LBSU, guard Alex Sanchez notched a game-high 21 points.
Howard made some history in the second half when she got the ball in the lane and hit a turnaround shot to give FSU a 39-22 lead at the 17:57 mark. The bucket gave Howard her 31st career double-double, tying former player Sue Galkantas for the school record.
Just as it appeared FSU was trying to break away with a 45-25 lead on a layup by Slaughter in the second half, the 49ers hit three consecutive long range shots to cut the FSU lead to 46-36. Delgado helped stop the run by hitting a few free throws to make it 48-36 FSU, and she followed with a runner in the lane to add to the Seminole lead.
The 49ers’ valiant comeback attempt was stalled by a scoreless drought of 5+ minutes, and a big 3-pointer by Lauren Coleman from the wing at the 8:21 mark put FSU ahead comfortably at 55-39. Later, some beautiful passing by the ‘Noles ended with a layup by Delgado to give Florida State a 66-48 lead with 2:41 remaining in the game.
Jones was helping get everyone involved early in the ballgame, feeding Howard on a nice post entry pass and using a rainbow 3-pointer of her own to give FSU an early 9-5 lead with 15:02 left in the first half. Delgado scored the game’s first bucket on a pull-up mid-range jumper.
Emiah Bingley came in and made an immediate impact for FSU, hitting a pull-up baseline jumper and getting out in transition to give an assist to Ivey Slaughter and put FSU ahead 13-5. However, Long Beach State’s Sanchez drained her second 3-pointer from the corner to keep the 49ers in it early trailing just 13-10 at the 11:59 mark.
FSU used an 8-0 run to help itself to a 23-14 lead at the 7:41 mark of the first half. Delgado added a pair of jumpers to help FSU try and take command of the game, and the ‘Noles got after it defensively to help turn in some points off turnovers against a 49ers team content on looking for the open 3-pointer. Another Jones 3-ball in transition just under four minutes remaining in the first half gave FSU a sizeable 31-16 lead.
Long Beach State went on a 6:59 scoreless draught that nearly ended the first half until Hallie Meneses drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 21 seconds left. The ‘Noles used a pressure-packed half-court defense to create more turnovers, and Kai James’ layup on the left side allowed Florida State to take its largest lead of the half at 33-16. The ‘Noles shot 14-of-28 through halftime, the seventh time they have shot 50 percent in a half this season. FSU also dominated the paint, outscoring the 49ers 18-6 in the lane.
FSU enjoys a week off competition until hosting Tennessee-Martin on Saturday, Dec. 28, at 2 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center on ESPN3. The contest is a 2-for-1 game where all tickets purchased are buy one, get one free.
For more information on Florida State women's basketball, follow the Seminoles on Twitter at @FSU_WBasketball and like their official Facebook page (Facebook.com/FSUWomensBasketball).