Tallahassee - A 33-point performance by forward Natasha Howard and an 11-assist game by Cheetah Delgado ignited the Florida State women’s basketball team to an 82-70 win over Virginia on Senior Day this Sunday afternoon at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Sunday was just another brilliant performance by Florida State’s two seniors. Fittingly, both set records in the Senior Day win. Delgado recorded an assist to freshman Ivey Slaughter with 8:33 left to set the FSU single-season school record for assists with 199. Delgado broke former FSU star Courtney Ward’s 198-assist season in 2009-10, and finishes the regular season with 201 dimes.
Howard was brilliant once again, equaling her career high with 14 made field goals. The Toledo, Ohio, native has produced three games with 14 field goals in conference play this season, the most of anyone in the ACC. Howard’s 33-point game makes her the only Seminole to ever have four 30-point games in one season. The All-America candidate recorded 40 at Syracuse, 35 at Maryland, 34 vs. Georgia Tech last game and 33 on Sunday.
“Virginia is a tough team for us to play against,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “They really pack things in and that usually makes it really tough for Natasha [Howard] to find her points. I was a little worried in the first half that we weren’t contesting their shots. They were getting wide open looks. They were shooting 60 percent. Just holding them in the second half to 28 percent was the difference in the basketball game. It all starts with these two (Cheetah and Natasha). It has all year and it will continue. I felt like in the second half that a light switch maybe went on for the younger kids and that was exciting.”
The record-breaking did not stop there for Howard. She also finished with 11 rebounds to mark her 13th double-double of the season and 39th of her career. Howard’s 13 double-doubles break the single-season record of 12 held by Laine Lasseter (1978-79).
For Howard and Delgado, it was their effort that sparked the play of their teammates and ignited the crowd. Both players displayed true senior leadership by diving for loose balls and making all the hustle plays that mattered most. It was their effort on the defensive end that limited Virginia to shooting just 28.9 percent (11-of-38) in the second half after firing away with 60 percent shooting (15-of-25) in the first half.
“Sometimes you have to sacrifice for your teammates and that’s what I did,” Howard said. “I sacrificed for my team. This was my last game here so I had to do any and everything to come out with this win.”
In addition to the two seniors, freshman Brittany Brown had one of her most complete games of the season. Brown set a career high with 10 made field goals and delivered 21 points, only missing one shot from the floor. The Fort Walton Beach, Fla., native shot with confidence all afternoon, recording the second 20-point game of her career.
Fellow freshman Ivey Slaughter had a good game off the bench, going 5-of-6 from the field for 13 points along with five boards. Slaughter helped FSU out-rebound the Cavaliers (13-16, 6-10), 33-27.
Offensively, Florida State was as crisp as it had been all season. Oftentimes, the Seminoles were put up against another trapping defense in Virginia that tried to force bad plays with ball-handlers in the corner. Despite FSU’s 23 turnovers, it utilized Delgado’s to help split traps and work the ball around, and wound up shooting a season-best 61.1 percent. It was FSU’s highest shooting percentage since shooting 62.3 percent against Yale on Dec. 28, 2011.
A well-played offensive first half by both teams resulted in a 38-36 lead for Virginia. However, the ‘Noles outscored the Cavaliers, 46-32, in the second half and were aided by an important 12-0 run later in the frame that stretched a 62-54 lead to 74-54 with 4:46 left. Over the big run, Brown came up with three buckets, including two on the fast break, to put the game out of reach.
Florida State capitalized well on the fast break Sunday, registering 14 points on the run to tie for the third most this season and its second highest in ACC play.
FSU also recorded 12 steals in Sunday’s game to reach 300 for the season. The ‘Noles have now reached 300 steals in back-to-back seasons, the first time they have accomplished that feat since the 1989-90 and 1990-91 years.
The dates and times will be announced by the ACC this evening in regards to next week’s ACC Tournament.