TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Courtney Ward hadn’t been herself through three games.
Sunday against No. 20/23 Vanderbilt, No. 14/18 Florida State’s leader returned to form in a 72-66 victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Ward, a Preseason All-ACC selection, had her best game of the young season as she scored a career-high 31 points behind a career-best seven 3-pointers. Perhaps most importantly, her six successful free throws in the final minute helped the Seminoles (4-0) earn their second win of the year over a Southeastern Conference opponent.
Before Sunday’s game, Ward had scored just a combined 12 points on 4-for-22 shooting.
“We talked before the game about being a team that played selfless and part of that was with Courtney forgetting the past few games,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “She is capable of scoring like that when people leave her open and she did that today. She played a complete game and it helped her teammates play well, too.”
Added Ward: “I can’t really describe what happened. I was just feeling good today. I guess my body was just tired of being rusty.”
True freshman Natasha Howard added 11 points and redshirt sophomore guard Alexa Deluzio posted nine. Sophomore Chelsea Davis finished the day with eight points for a ’Noles team that shot 45 percent from the field.
Florida State outrebounded Vanderbilt (2-1) 36-24, marking the fourth consecutive game in which FSU grabbed more boards than its opponent.
As a team, FSU was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line after not shooting a single freebie in the first half.
Vanderbilt came out strong in the second half and regained a lead less than seven minutes in. But a Ward steal and fastbreak score quickly put FSU back in command a few seconds later at 39-38.
After the Commodores recaptured a one-point advantage, both squads exchanged buckets until the final minute when the Seminoles’ defense and free-throw shooting proved to be the difference.
Ward’s fourth triple of the opening half gave FSU its first lead since scoring the game’s first basket. Up 16-13 at that time, the Seminoles then took a 33-25 lead into intermission.
Next up for the ’Noles is a Thanksgiving trip to the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam. FSU opens up with an 8 p.m. game against Alabama on Nov. 26 and will then play either Arizona State or Providence on Nov. 27.