Unstoppable Rodriguez leads FSU past Iowa

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TALLAHASSE, Fla. – Florida State women’s basketball head coach Sue Semrau called senior guard Leonor Rodriguez the Seminoles’ MVP so far this season following FSU’s 5-0 start.

The Canary Islands, Spain star proved just how valuable she is on Wednesday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center, carrying Florida State past Iowa, 83-69, in this season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup.

Rodriguez, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, scored a career-best 28 points on 11-of-15 field goals, including 4-of-6 from three. Her 11 field goals, four treys in 39 minutes are all career bests.

“She wasn’t cocky - she shows humility,” Florida State head coach Sue Semrau said. “That kid has put in hours, and hours, and hours of work. She and (Alexa Deluzio) - they are the ones that are in the gym together shooting, shooting, shooting and that’s really the difference in why they both are so critical to our success.”

Deluzio, a senior guard, added 14 points and five boards for a Seminole team that moved to 6-0 for the third time in four years.

Junior forward Natasha Howard scored 12 points and senior post Chelsea Davis tallied 10 while battling foul trouble.

Rodriguez gave the Seminoles a narrow lead at halftime, 33-30, by hitting 5-of-7 shots, scoring 11 points and dishing three assists before the break.

In the second half, the 5-11 guard made big play, after big play.

When Iowa cut the FSU lead to 4, Rodriguez took a pass from junior point guard Yashira “Cheetah” Delgado and buried a three at the 8:22 mark to put the Seminoles comfortably ahead 58-51.

Three minutes later, the Hawkeyes inched to within 5, 66-61, but there was Rodriguez again. This time, she found Howard for a layup underneath the hoop to stave off the threat and notch her season-high sixth assist.

Rodriguez further extended the Florida State lead to 74-65 by rattling in a pull-up 15-footer with 3:10 left in the game.

Delgado put the Seminoles up 11, 76-65, 40 seconds later when she dribbled through the entire Iowa defense and scooped in a layup.

Rodriguez’s steal with 50 seconds left was the back-breaker, as she found Delgado for a layup that put the Noles up 81-69.

“I’m just happy for the team, happy for the victory,” Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. I think everybody played their role. Cheetah [Delgado] and Morgan [Toles] found me. They did it for me. I just have to shoot it. I’m happy for the win and I hope we keep working hard.”

The Seminoles held Iowa’s Morgan Johnson (18.1 ppg & 7.6 rpg) to just two points and one board in the first half, but the 6-5 preseason All-Big Ten honoree got rolling with back-to-back layups the first minute following halftime to give the Hawkeyes a 34-33 lead.

Johnson’s free throws at the 15:49 mark in the second half gave her double figures for the game and tied the contest at 40-40.

Following a gritty putback by Deluzio, Delagado made a steal and tried to whip a one-handed pass back to Deluzio. The pass was too long, but Deluzio saved it to Delgado, who tossed a pass cross court to a wide open Rodriguez. In what was no surprise to anybody in the arena, she swished in the trey to put the Seminoles ahead, 47-42 and forced Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder to burn a timeout with 12:42 left in the game.

Johnson finished with 20 points, including 18 in the second half, to lead Iowa, who shot 60.7 percent after halftime and 49.2 percent for the game.

The Noles also made 49.2 percent of their shots and connected on 56.2 percent in the second frame.

Florida State was outrebounded for the first time this season, but scored 28 points off 24 Iowa turnovers.

The Seminoles return to action when they travel to Charlotte to face the 49ers at 2 p.m. on Sunday in what will be the first true road game of the season for the Garnet and Gold.

For more information on Florida State women's basketball, follow the Seminoles on Twitter @FSU_WBasketball and like their official Facebook page.

Notes: Rodriguez scored 20 points for the third time this season…Rodriguez, Davis and Howard have scored in double figures in all six games this season…Rodriguez had just five double figure scoring games heading into the 2012-13 campaign…Overall, it was the 10th straight game of 10 or more points for Howard…Rodriguez now has the best three-point shooting percentage in FSU history at .426 as she has made 46-108 from three all-time…The last time the Seminoles won six straight by 10 or more came during the 2004-05 season from Nov. 22 to Dec. 15…In the 1989-1990 season Florida State won seven straight by 10 or more from Jan. 28-Feb. 17…The ACC’s leader in three-point defense, Florida State finished the night with its defense holding the Hawkeyes to 18 percent shooting…Florida State snapped a two-game losing streak in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge and moved to 4-2 all-time in the event.

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