With a Sweet 16 rematch against No. 8 LSU looming in the horizon, and coming off a tough loss to No. 7 Georgia, it wouldn't have been out of the question for the Florida State women's basketball team to overlook its consolation game of the FIU Fun & Sun Classic with Hofstra. Instead, the Seminoles took care of business and beat the Pride, 72-54, on Sunday (December 30).
Florida State reached double digit wins before New Year's for just the third time in school history as they improved to 10-4 on the year. Hofsta dropped 2-9.
"Obviously it was an emotional loss for us last night, but we looked at the whole thing coming together as an opportunity for us to prepare for the ACC Tournament," FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. "We had the opportunity to win last night and going in, what was it going to feel like playing three games in four days in the championship game. I really felt they met the challenge. We're not where we want to be in March, but we stepped up and got better today."
Turning in her best all-around game in some time was freshman Antionette Howard (Snellville, Ga.) as she turned in a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Equaling her point total was classmate Courtney Ward (Montgomery, Ala.) to go along with six assists. South Florida natives Alysha Harvin (Dania, Fla.) and Jacinta Monroe (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) got into double-digits with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Monroe had a half dozen rebounds to go along with four blocks while guard Mara Freshour (Nashville, Ind.) also pulled in six boards.
"They just continue to grow," Semrau said of Howard and Ward. "I have to complement the tutelage of the other players on our team. When Courtney is on the court with Shante (Williams), Courtney is learning a ton. When Shante was questioning whether to come back with her hip injury, Courtney was texting her and telling her `I need you back." You can see what a great student Courtney has been.
"It's the same thing with Antionette and Alysha Harvin and Mara Freshour. She's learned a lot from those two players and being willing to be pushed and that's something the freshmen need to do."
Florida State played strong defense as it held the Pride to just 33.9 percent shooting (20-of-59) while hitting 41.7 percent (25-of-60) itself. FSU continued its improvement from the free throw line, hitting 72.7 percent (16-of-22). The Seminoles controlled the paint, holding a 42-38 rebounding advantage while scoring 31 of its points in there. FSU forced Hofstra into 20 turnovers, which it converted to 19 points. The Seminoles also had 10 steals and eight blocks.
A 10-0 run by the Seminoles broke the game open early as they established a 13-2 margin at the 16:20 mark on a lay-up by Cayla Moore (Albany, Ga.). Florida State went 3:30 without a basket, but it played good enough defense that Hofstra only cut the margin to seven (13-6) at the 13:59 mark. After the two teams traded baskets, Florida State went on a 4-0 run to push the lead back to double digits (19-8) on a steal and lay-up by Harvin.
The lead never went below double digits the rest of the half. Playing with two fouls in the half, Monroe nailed back-to-back jumpers within 30 seconds of each other to push the margin to 15 points (33-18). Hofstra made a little four point run to get the deficit back to 10 (33-23), but Monroe canned a jumper seconds before the half expired to send FSU into the locker room leading 35-23.
Tying for the first first-half lead was Monroe and Harvin as they threw in eight points each while every player in the game scored at least two points. Howard grabbed six rebounds and Ward had four assists.
Florida State shot 42.3 percent (11-of-26) and held the Pride to 25.8 percent (8-of-31). The Seminoles able to control the inside, holding a 22-to-17 rebounding edge while scoring 14 of their points in the paint. Another area where Florida State dominated was free throws as it hit an impressive 92.3 percent (12-of-13).
Out of the locker room, the Seminoles appeared as they were going to run away with the game as Monroe and Ward hit two early shots to build a 16-point lead (39-23), just 1:27 into the second half. Hofstra made an effort to get back into the game as it went on a 9-2 run to get the lead under double digits (41-32). Howard stopped the run with a pair of basket then Ward canned a three put the lead back to 16 (48-32) at the 12:45 mark.
The Seminole kept the peddle down on offense as it increased its lead. The lead reached 20 points (58-38) for the first time at the 6:59 mark on a jumper in the lane by Christian Hunnicutt (Jonesboro, Ga.), who scored eight points. The margin got as high as 21 (61-40 at the 6:12 mark) and Hofstra could only get it down to 12 (66-54).
The Seminoles return home for the start a stretch of three out of four games at home with LSU on Thursday (January 3) at 7 p.m. The game can be heard 1270 AM and Seminoles.com. It can also be seen on ACC Select.