LINCOLN, Neb. – In a matchup featuring two Top 25 squads, Saturday afternoon’s contest between No. 24 Florida State and No. 22 Nebraska lived up to the billing at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Both teams battled till literally the final buzzer in a contest that featured 17 lead changes. The Seminoles had a chance to win the game at the free throw line with 1.3 seconds left, but Jordan Hooper’s career-best 36-point performance was ultimately too much to overcome as Nebraska edged Florida State, 78-77.
The Seminoles shot 53.6 percent from the field and made 7-of-9 from behind the arc (78 percent), but were outrebounded 38-31 and couldn’t find an answer for Hooper, who hit five three-pointers in the first half.
The loss is Florida State’s first this season, and the Seminoles will take a 7-1 record into their next game on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. versus Grambling State in Tallahassee.
“Hooper got busy out there and we didn’t have an answer for her,” Florida State head coach Sue Semrau said. “Credit to Nebraska. I thought the momentum swings seemed even bigger than they probably were because they had a great crowd.”
Florida State trailed 78-77 and had the ball with 22 seconds left following a pair of free throws by Nebraska point guard Lindsey Moore.
Senior guard Morgan Toles drove the lane and forced up a runner with five seconds left on the clock. Senior forward Chelsea Davis grabbed the offensive rebound, but her putback attempt was no good. Junior forward Natasha Howard grabbed the miss and was fouled with 1.3 seconds left on her layup attempt.
With the game on the line, both of Howard’s free throw attempts were no good.
“Natasha gave us a chance to win, and that’s the first step in our growth,” Semrau said. “We hadn’t been in a game like this. I thought it came down to us giving them too many opportunities on the offensive glass.”
Florida State was down 71-66 with 5:20 left in the game, but senior guard Leonor Rodriguez (24 points) got the Seminoles back in the game.
Her fourth three of the afternoon tied the game at 71-71 with 2:48 left, and her pull-up jumper gave the Seminoles a 73-71 advantage at the 2:29 mark.
Moore split a pair of free throws nine seconds later and Hooper’s layup gave Nebraska a 74-73 lead with two minutes remaining.
Howard’s layup put the Noles back up 1 with a minute to go, but Nebraska’s Emily Cady answered with a post bucket of her own with 48 seconds left.
Toles nailed two free throws with 40 seconds remaining to give FSU its last lead, 77-76, before Moore drilled her pair that sealed the win.
Hooper sparked Nebraska to a 40-36 halftime lead by scoring 22 points before the break.
Both teams started the game red hot – shooting identical 71.4 percent (5-of-7) before the first media timeout.
The Huskers led 17-11 before senior guard Alexa Deluzio (19 points) sparked an 11-1 run with 10 points in a two-and-half minute span that gave the Noles a 30-23 lead with 8:03 left in the first half.
However, the Seminoles went cold and didn’t score a point for nearly six minutes, as Hooper took over the game for Nebraska.
Hooper, who didn’t score in her last game, tallied eight consecutive points and gave the Huskers a 31-30 lead with her fourth trey of the first half at the 3:30 mark.
Chasity Clayton nailed a free throw to end the Noles’ drought and tie the game 31-31 2:10 before the halftime buzzer. Clayton added a three-point play to make the score 34-31 at 1:36, but Hooper drilled another three and Moore made a trey at the first half buzzer.
The Seminoles opened the second half by scoring seven consecutive points to take a 43-40 lead on a trey from Deluzio.
Hooper answered with her sixth three to tie the contest, but Rodriguez followed with five consecutive points – swishing a trey before making a steal and connecting on a layup to put FSU in the lead 48-43 with 17:45 left.
Rodriguez scored 10 straight FSU points, but Nebraska kept fighting back behind its loud crowd of 3,864 fans. Tear’a Laudermill’s free throws at 14:50 tied the game, 53-53, and the teams traded leads the rest of the contest.
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