GREENSBORO, N.C. (seminoles.com) – Seniors Natasha Howard and Cheetah Delgado willed the No. 9 seeded Florida State women’s basketball team to a crucial 72-67 overtime victory on Thursday afternoon over rival Miami in the second round of the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Howard recorded her fifth 30-point game of the season as well as her 40th career double-double, registering 30 points and 16 rebounds on 11-of-17 shooting. Delgado, the ACC’s leader in assists, went into scoring mode on Thursday afternoon. The Kissimmee, Fla., native recorded a career-high 20 points. She provided the shot of the game in overtime, nailing a 3-pointer from the wing with one second on the shot clock to give FSU a 68-64 lead with 32 seconds left.
“We had drawn a play up to run,” Delgado said. “And it didn’t go through. The clock was running down and the ball ended up in my hands. I just shot it. I didn’t think about it. We were trying to tell our team, ‘We’ve got to get back, there was too much time left to give them a chance.’”
The overtime win for the Seminoles (20-10), which was the 15th overtime game in ACC Tournament history, gives them their eighth 20-win season under head coach Sue Semrau. Florida State also improves to 2-0 against the eighth-seeded Hurricanes (16-14) at the ACC Tournament.
“That’s always a great rivalry,” Semrau said following Thursday’s hard-fought game. “It’s always a great game when we play Miami. And credit Miami, I thought they did a great job of controlling a lot of things early. The main thing that we talked about was Miami had a 51 to 36 advantage over us on the boards in our last game. And we hammered home how important rebounding was going to be, and we held them to 31 rebounds. And I think that was the difference in the basketball game.”
Florida State’s focus on the boards paid big dividends, out-rebounding the Hurricanes 39-31. The ‘Noles put much of their attention on the inside game, winning the points in the paint battle, 34-18, to combat Miami’s eight 3-pointers made.
FSU advances to the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon to face top-seeded and undefeated Notre Dame (29-0) at 2 p.m. on the ACC’s regional sports networks.
Thursday’s battle between the two rivals was tightly contested, with neither team gaining a double-digit advantage. Following two made free throws by Howard to make it 58-55 with 39 seconds left, Miami’s Necole Sterling drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game with 30.2 seconds left. Looking for the last possession, Delgado tried a floater that missed with 1.2 ticks remaining on the clock. A subsequent Miami heave was no good to send the game into overtime, the second in the rivalry.
In overtime, FSU shot 4-of-5 from the field and was boosted by a big 3-pointer from sophomore Emiah Bingley to give the Seminoles a 61-60 lead with 4:26 left. Howard then came through with a turnaround jumper on the baseline to create a three-point advantage, and a basket by Ivey Slaughter made it 65-60 with 1:59 left.
A fastbreak layup by Miami’s Suriya McGuire cut FSU’s lead to 65-64 with 1:06 remaining. A long possession for the ‘Noles resulted in Delgado’s game-changing 3-pointer against the shot clock. With three seconds remaining, Morgan Jones iced the game with two free throws.
FSU held Miami to 43.9 percent shooting, but clamped down in the second half by holding the Hurricanes to 33.3 percent. The Seminoles also capitalized on second-chance points, winning 11-4.
FSU came out in the second half on a 6-0 run, using baskets by Howard, Delgado and Brown to cut its deficit to 33-32 with 17:37 remaining. Miami’s Krystal Saunders responded with a trey from the wing to give the Canes a 36-32 advantage going into the first media timeout of the second half.
Over the final 4 ½ minutes of the first half, Miami went on a 10-4 run to take a 33-26 lead into the locker room. Howard led FSU with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting while Delgado added nine points, but FSU committed 12 turnovers through the first 20 minutes that helped Miami to eight points.
The Seminoles were staunch in the early going on the defensive end, allowing Miami’s first bucket just over three minutes into the game. Howard corralled three early rebounds, including an offensive put-back to start the game, as FSU and Miami battled to a 4-4 tie with 15:44 left in the first half. Howard’s first rebound moved her into sole possession of second place in school history.
Delgado began to show some assertiveness on the offensive end, making a few pull-up jumpers and a runner in the lane to help FSU to a 10-8 lead with 11:04 remaining in the first half. Adrienne Motley led the way for the Hurricanes early with four points as they started off 4-of-10 from the floor.
Howard and Delgado provided all the field goals made until Brittany Brown hit a jumper from the wing to cut the FSU deficit to 21-20 with 5:01 left in the first half. Following a left-handed drive and finish by Miami’s Keyona Hayes, Lauren Coleman drained a mid-range jumper beyond the elbow to make it 23-22 Miami with 3:50 left.
FSU looks to make its fourth trip to the ACC Tournament semifinals on Friday against No. 1 seed Notre Dame at 2 p.m.
For more information on Florida State women's basketball, follow the Seminoles on Twitter at @FSU_WBasketball and like their official Facebook page (Facebook.com/FSUWomensBasketball).