Atlanta, GA - Trailing by nine points in the second half, the 19th-ranked Florida State women’s basketball team fought back to secure an 85-78 win over Georgia Tech on Thursday night at McCamish Pavilion.
The Seminoles were led by senior point guard Morgan Toles, who finished with 18 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers. Her scooping layup gave the Seminoles a six-point lead with one minute remaining and her steal 20 seconds later sealed the victory.
The Seminoles allowed Georgia Tech to shoot 59 percent in the first half, but buckled down in the second half, forcing the Yellow Jackets to shoot just 31 percent after the break.
“We started slow in the first half,” head coach Sue Semrau said. “For them to be able to flick the switch in the second half like they did and have the confidence was impressive. Our point guards combined for 16 assists and one turnover. Our players knew what to do with the ball and how to take care of it tonight. The Georgia Tech press didn’t seem to affect us.
“It started with Leonor Rodriguez and Morgan Toles tonight. They took it upon themselves to come out in the second half and played like warriors. It’s so much fun to play up here (in Atlanta). We had friends and family, and alumni at the game. It’s a special place to win.”
Junior forward Natasha Howard finished with 18 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, while senior guard Leonor Rodriguez added 23 points, as the Seminoles moved to 12-1 for just the fourth time in school history.
The Seminoles trailed 72-70 after Georgia Tech guard Brittany Jackson drilled a corner three-pointer with 4 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the game, but the Garnet and Gold used a 10-2 run to take control of the game.
Rodriguez went coast-to-coast for a layup with three minutes left to ignite the game-winning spurt, before senior forward Chelsea Davis made back-to-back buckets and grabbed steals on consecutive possessions that gave the Noles a 78-74 advantage with two minutes left.
Toles, a Fayetteville, Ga., native playing in front of a host of friends and family, found Davis for a layup 30 seconds later before icing the victory with her layup and steal in the final minute.
“Our energy in the second half was the difference,” Toles said. “Coach (Semrau) told us to play our game during halftime, especially on defense. Our defense was the key in the second half. Road games are always tough. We have so many weapons. We work hard in practice and it showed tonight.”
Georgia Tech moved ahead by 9 on a three-pointer by Dawnn Maye five minutes into the second half. However, the Seminoles got right back into the game with a 6-0 run spearheaded by the playmaking of Toles.
Florida State cut the deficit to 1 when Rodriguez made an impossible layup with 11:30 left in the contest.
A free throw by Howard with 8:57 left in the game gave the Seminoles their first lead, 64-63, since midway through the first half and the two teams battled back-and-forth until the end with nine lead changes in the final nine minutes.
Toles and senior guard Chasity Clayton (12 first-half points) kept the Noles in the contest over the first 20 minutes, but Georgia Tech stayed in control.
Yellow Jackets’ reserve guard Sydney Wallace drilled a three at the 2:19 mark in the first frame that put the host squad ahead 41-34. She drilled another jumper to put Georgia Tech in front by 9, 43-34, a few moments later, and Georgia Tech carried a 45-38 lead into the break.
Howard’s double-double was her fifth of the season and 20th of her career, while Rodriguez reached 20 points for the fifth-time this season.
Toles had 10 assists and no turnovers in a game for the second time this year.