Orange Crushed: Noles Squeeze the Cuse 77-58

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Shakayla Thomas scored 10 of her 17 points during the decisive first quarter, and No. 7 Florida State cruised to a 77-58 victory over Syracuse on Thursday night.

The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hit 11 of their first 14 from the field, including nine straight during one stretch, as they built a 26-5 lead with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter. The Orange (13-7, 4-3) made their first two shots and then missed their next 10 as FSU went on an 18-0 run.

Leticia Romero added 12 points and Imani Wright 11 for the Seminoles, who led 72-39 early in the fourth quarter.

Alexis Peterson, who leads the ACC in scoring, had a game-high 26 points for Syracuse, with 21 coming in the second half.

• Florida State assisted on 75.8 percent of its made field goals (22 assists on 29 baskets), its highest assist percentage of the season.
• FSU’s win continues its current lead in the ACC standings at 6-1 in conference play. Notre Dame trails in second place at 5-1.
• The Seminoles’ 18-2 overall record ties for the best 20-game start in school history with the 2014-15 squad and the 2004-05 team.
• Junior forward Shakayla Thomas led FSU with 17 points (7-of-11), leading the team in scoring for the eighth time this season and 30th time in her career. Thomas recorded her 500th career made field goal in the game, making her the seventh-fastest player in FSU history to reach that feat (89 games).
• Through 20 games played, FSU has not let an opponent shoot 50 percent or better. Syracuse shot 38.2 percent for the contest.
• Florida State raced out to a 26-7 first-period lead, creating a 54-11 first-period advantage over the last two games. FSU led 45-20 at halftime, marking a 92-34 halftime advantage over the last two games.
• Four Seminoles finished in double figures including Thomas (17), Romero (12), Imani Wright (11) and Ivey Slaughter (10). FSU has had four or more players in double figures in 14 games this season.
• FSU finished the game shooting 53.7 percent (29-of-54) from the floor, its best shooting game in ACC play this season.
• Romero’s eight assists were a season high.
• Brittany Brown added to her all-time steals lead with five, giving her 286 for her career. Brown has cracked the ACC’s Top 25 career steals list, tying former players Ramona O’Neal (Clemson, 1986-89) and Andrea Stinson (NC State, 1989-91) for 24th.
• Brown also led all players on Thursday with nine rebounds.
• In 17 minutes off the bench, freshman Nicki Ekhomu contributed with eight points.


Opening Statement:
“I was really pleased with the way we came out. We handled their pressure really well. They are a great pressure basketball team and they have two phenomenal guards, Sykes and Peterson, who are really hard to handle. I thought defensively our team defense did a great job on them to start out the game. I thought Brittany’s (Brown) rebounding really set the tone too. You know you don’t usually say that about a guard but I thought she ran down every loose ball and that set the tone for the way we were going to play this game.”

Was that the best first quarter you’ve seen this season, on such a great defense?
“Clemson was pretty good too but yeah. We were taking great shots. We had 22 assists on 29 field goals, something like that. Sharing the basketball in rhythm. Again their defense, you have to worry about if they score then you have to worry about their pressure. And we did a great job on the defensive end so they couldn’t get into their pressure early.”

How did you think your guards performed against their pressure? Leti with 8 assists, team with 22 assists.
“We were just talking about it on the way over. The savvy that everyone on the team is working with right now handling pressure. I thought these two (Romero and Brown), obviously it starts with them. But I thought Imani did a great job. Maria, the post players, Ivey bringing the ball up the floor. They were determined and our scout team - we have to give them credit because they made us work the last couple days getting ready for this.”

26 points off 21 turnovers, is this just kind of proof of what you preach saying our defense will dictate out offense?
“Again we’re not a pressing team so you saw the 21 forced turnovers in the half court and that to me shows a team defense. And knowing that there’s layer upon layer upon layer. Then I don’t know how many deflections Brittany had here tonight but it was almost like she’d have a deflection and they’d get it back and then she’d have another one and you know, I thought just everybody moving the way they did. Leti having the assignment on Peterson. What, she’s averaging 27 a game or something so that’s tough. They did a great job of turning them over and not a lot of people do. They only got off 12 3’s and against Georgia Tech they got off 41. So we were expecting that. That’s pretty good defense.”

Is it also valuable in these unique matchups to face a team that presses this much because you never know what you’re going to come up with later in the season?
“Yeah we can always trust Syracuse to help us with that and we can usually trust Georgia Tech with that as well. A lot of people will play this way and we need to be ready for it.”

This is tied for the best 20-game start you guys have had for the program. What’s impressed you the most about what you guys have been able to do thus far?
“Just the continued hunger that this team has to get better. Unless you guys told me that I really wouldn’t have known. It’s really more that they’re going to come to work tomorrow and I know that. That’s the difference. I was telling Brittany earlier (former player) Emiah Bingley from last year’s team called me last night and was raving about our team. It wasn’t the same team last year and she was just talking about the chemistry and the work ethic, all the things she saw. I think that speaks volumes.”

Is that nice knowing all the problems you guys had with chemistry last year and seeing the results it’s produced?
“You have to credit our captains. They worked to create a bond, a trust, they lead. Leti was a young leader last year. Heck then she goes away to the Olympics and wins a silver medal and learns from one of the best in the world and comes back. Just the difference and what she thought about leadership. Brittany getting that opportunity this year, look what she’s done with it. Ivey, it’s just really been fun to watch the three of them.”

You guy shave held teams in the first quarter to like 20 percent shooting lately…
“Well defensive focus. And I also think we’ve got to credit my two assistants Brooke Wyckoff and Lance White who have been carrying the load. They have been carrying the load and they have done a phenomenal job. We’ve really been well prepared and the players pay attention to the scout and they’re ready for it.”

You guys are now on a five-game winning streak, what are your expectations from now on a three-day road trip starting with Virginia Tech?
“I expect us to go to work tomorrow. It’s just really what we need to do every day and it’s just really what this group does. Whether we’re home or on the road it doesn’t matter to us. Even though it’s three games on the road we’ve got a long stretch between Georgia Tech and whoever our next opponent is. We’ve got that bye week where we’ll be able to get a little bit of rest. I’m excited to get to work tomorrow and start preparing for Georgia Tech.”

They (Virginia Tech) are 3-2 in conference play now, are they starting to prove a little bit of their legitimacy now?
“They’re veterans and they’ve got a ton of people back. They are playing with a lot of confidence. The system has been really good to them. They are an extremely dangerous team. We’re going to have to play great to have to go up there and have a shot to beat them up there.”


Is the shooting getting contagious?
“It builds on momentum and that energy on that offensive side. But I think it comes from our defensive end. Our defense will dictate our offense and that’s what we pride ourselves on and we carry that momentum on our offensive side.”

With it being Syracuse, had you been looking forward to this matchup?
“Honestly, I think that with the ACC, we’re taking everybody at that same caliber. Anyone can show up and beat a ranked team. We see it a lot throughout the previous games that have been played. I think it’s a lot like Louisville; they had some very good guards as well. We take pride in our defense to lock those guards up.”

How did you out-rebound everyone tonight?
“It was really big for my teammates tonight of boxing out. It opens up the lane to go and get it and I think that was the big difference tonight.”


Making nine straight shots like you guys did in the first quarter, does it get contagious out there?
“I think it does. I think it gives you energy and it’s just getting into a flow. I think when we started hitting shots and everybody had so much energy on defense, it was just so contagious and you could see it in the faces.”

When you guys came into this year, what did you guys say or do so that last year wouldn’t repeat itself?
“I think it wasn’t so much what we said, but how we felt. I mean we all agree that we couldn’t have the same year and it wasn’t just about basketball, it was more like chemistry and trusting and just being consistent. I think consistency was a word that we didn’t have last year and we definitely have this year and that’s something that takes work, a lot of work and it hasn’t been easy, but I feel way more confident about the team going into the games. It’s a little bit different from last year.”