Waco, TX - And the streak -- now officially in its 10th game -- continues.
The No. 8-seed Florida State women's basketball team opened the 2013 NCAA Championships Sunday night with a 60-44 victory over No. 9-seed Princeton, to extend the program's first-round winning streak to double digits in "The Big Dance."
The 10-game streak dates all the way back to the 1990 season when the 'Noles (23-9) lost to Penn State in Tallahassee. For some perspective on the 23-years-and-counting that separates that last setback, Alexa Deluzio and Chasity Clayton are the only current members of the team that were alive then.
"It helps us to have extra prep time between the ACC and NCAA Tournament to get ready for these opening games," Deluzio said afterwards. "More than anything, though, having a few extra days to rest our bodies after a long regular season really helps us."
The Seminoles' certainly looked like a rested team inside Baylor's golden-domed Ferrell Center, particularly on defense.
The Tigers (22-7), who have won the Ivy League championship in each of the last four seasons, entered the Oklahoma City Regional shooting nearly 44 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point distance with a plus-19.4 scoring margin. But against Florida State, those shooting averages took quite the tumble.
Princeton finished the game just 17-of-67 (24.4 percent) from inside the arc and 6-of-23 (26.1 percent) beyond it and was held to its lowest point total of the 2012-13 season. Reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, Niveen Rasheed, concluded her career with just nine points on 3-of-15 shooting after averaging 16.9 points per game before the tournament.
As a team, Princeton was forced into 19 turnovers and the Seminoles capitalized with 22 points off those takeaways. FSU also shot 48.1 percent from the field and never trailed despite a 48-34 rebounding disadvantage.
“One of the things that is so important in basketball … we all talk about the scorers, but it’s the playmakers that create the opportunities for the scorers that need to be defended," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "I thought that’s what we did a good job of. [Rasheed] is such a great player. If we would’ve just tried to take her out of it, I think everybody else is good enough that they could step up. We had to take the players out of it that get her involved.
"I thought that our team did a great job of understanding that."
Playing in her first NCAA Tournament, senior guard Morgan Toles scored 12 points for FSU and fellow fourth-year guard Leonor Rodriguez scored 12 of her own. Yashira Delgado -- another tournament newcomer -- added 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and a well-timed 3-pointer midway through the second half that halted a 10-0 Princeton run.
Natasha Howard tied her career high with five blocks and scored six points while Deluzio scored seven while battling foul trouble. Chelsea Davis and Clayton scored six apiece.
The Seminoles had kept the Tigers in check through the first 26 minutes of the game but Alex Wheatley's lay-up with 13:45 remaining in the second half cut FSU's lead to single digits at 38-29. Wheatley's bucket helped spark what turned out to be that 10-0 Princeton run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Blake Dietrick that put the Tigers within a 38-37 score -- FSU's smallest advantage of the night at that point since the scoreboard showed 2-0 -- with 11:07 left to play.
In need of a run-stopping answer, Delgado then heeded that call with her critical 3-pointer at the game's 10:49 mark.
"The ball ended up in my hands on that play and I saw I had an open shot," Delgado said. "I just shot it with confidence and it went in."
Toles then tallied her own jumper to put the Seminoles up 44-39 and combined with Deluzio to add two more baskets and Rodriguez hit a triple and made the highlight tapes with an acrobatic and-one reverse lay-up that gave the 'Noles a 54-39 lead with 5:19 left.
Kate Miller then hit a 3-pointer for the Tigers but it proved harmless as the Seminoles held Princeton to just one two-point basket in the final 4:57 to seal a victory that fittingly started and ended with strong defensive play.
To start the game, Florida State held Princeton to just 20.6-percent shooting from the field and generated a halftime advantage of 31-19 -- the Tigers' second lowest opening-frame output of the entire season. The 'Noles also limited Rasheed to just three points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first 20 minutes.
“Full court pressure gave us the opportunity to play less time in the half court defensively," Semrau said.
Florida State's Tuesday-night second-round game at Baylor University will likely be against the hosting Bears. The defending national champions and the tournament's overall No. 1 seed took on Prairie View A&M after the Seminoles' win.