The Seminoles were 3 of 21 from three but still won comfortably to close out non-conference play.
Curt Weiler, Tallahassee Democrat
Florida State went from can’t miss to can’t make in a hurry.
After setting a program record with 15 made threes in its last game at Milwaukee, the FSU women’s basketball team struggled mightily from outside the arc Saturday against Georgia State, missing its first 16 attempts.
This didn’t affect the result in the least, however, as the No. 25 Seminoles (12-1) worked their way to a 79-43 win over the Panthers (6-5) with a crowd of 2,578 fans looking on at the Tucker Civic Center.
“It’s just not something we rely on. We’ve got to get that through our heads,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said of the three-point shooting.
“We’re going to shoot, but we don’t rely on it. We rely on going and getting the rebound. We rely on there’s some nights it’s going to go in and some nights it’s not.”
The Seminoles’ first three didn’t come until there was 6:08 left in the third quarter from junior point guard Nicki Ekhomu. They finished three of 21 (14.3 percent) from outside the arc.
FSU hasn’t hit three-pointers at an especially strong rate this season — it entered Saturday shooting 31.4 percent from outside — but the Seminoles did average 6.8 made threes per game.
Playing its first game since Dec. 20, there was some expected rust FSU had to get rid of early against GSU, but this proved true for both teams.
Neither team shot better than 30 percent from the floor in the first quarter and they were a combined 0 of 11 from three-point range.
“We kind of expected after an eight-day layoff that we’d come back with some rust,” Semrau said.
“I thought they responded extremely well.”
While their outside shooting was unable to get going, FSU held narrow leads after the first and second quarters before finally creating some distance in the third quarter.
Trailing 31-30, FSU rattled off a 17-1 run to open up its biggest lead at 15 points, which it kept for the rest of the game.
Junior forward Kiah Gillespie played a key role in this run as she finished with a game-high 25 points — her fifth 20-point game of the season — on 11 of 18 shooting.
With 12 rebounds as well, Gillespie notched her fifth double-double of the season, adding four assists, two steals and a block.
“I just try to bring something to this team. I know sometimes that when I’m not my best, we don’t play our best,” Gillespie said.
“I know that it all starts with me. I know that when I’m rebounding and defending and talking, my teammates come right along with me. I definitely saw that.”
What we learned
Charity stripe success
Saturday’s game was FSU’s third straight in which it made the most of its trips to the free-throw line.
The Seminoles made 16 of their 17 free throws, 94.1 percent, their best mark of the season and fourth-best in a game in program history.
It’s the third straight game in which FSU has made more than 84 percent of its shots from the charity stripe.
With ACC play looming, this is a promising trend that could assist in winning a number of close games if it continues.
Pressed for where her team needs improvement as FSU nears conference play, FSU head coach Sue Semrau cited defense ahead of Saturday’s game.
There was plenty of improvement in this facet against the Panthers as GSU’s offense never really found its groove.
The Panthers shot 30.9 percent from the field — 21.4 percent in the second half — and struggled to keep the ball.
They had 19 turnovers as FSU racked up 11 steals (four of which came from Nausia Woolfolk) and added three blocks.
“We played defense. That was the difference in the second half and first half,” Semrau said.
“That’s how you win on the road, that’s how you win in the ACC is you defend and rebound.”
With the victory, the Seminoles close out non-conference play with a 12-1 record.
It marks the third straight year and sixth time in the last seven seasons that the Seminoles closed out non-conference play with one or fewer losses.
FSU now has a few days to prepare at home before beginning its ACC slate on the road with games at Virginia on Jan. 3 and North Carolina on Jan. 6.
FSU’s home opener is Sunday, Jan. 13 against Clemson at 2 p.m.
No. 25 Florida State at Virginia
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Virginia
TV/Radio: WatchESPN (Online)/106.1 FM