Losing all five starters off last year’s roster, the Florida State women’s basketball team needed multiple players to step up this season.
Enter juniors Kiah Gillespie, Nicki Ekhomu and Nausia Woolfolk.
The trio has emerged as a terrific scoring tandem for the Seminoles this season, playing key roles in leading FSU to its 11-1 start and into the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time this season at No. 25 in this week’s poll.
Gillespie, Ekhomu and Woolfolk are combining to average 44.9 points per game this season and have had a knack for putting up 20-plus points in a game, doing so a combined nine times through 12 games this season.
“It’s very helpful. You never know who’s going to go off and you can always count on somebody to be there to pick up the slack for the other two or the other two to pick up the slack for one,” Woolfolk said.
“You never know, it’s any given day, anybody goes off and it just happens so it’s very good to have that balance.”
That scoring knack has ramped up of late with one of the three going for 20-plus points in all of FSU’s last six games, all wins.
Each has set new career-highs for points this season and there’s been a common thread between them scoring in droves and the outcome of FSU games this season.
At least one of them has scored 17-plus points in all 11 FSU wins this season. In the sole loss to LSU, no one had more than 14 points as they combined to score 26 points on 10 of 31 (32.3 percent) shooting.
“When they’re going off, it’s opening up shots for us so we get easier shots,” freshman Kourtney Weber said of the trio’s scoring acumen.
“If they’re hot, they’re hot. If they need to carry us, they need to carry us.”
Added FSU head coach Sue Semrau, “That’s huge…It’s good to have depth everywhere.”
Final ACC preparations
After a five-day holiday break which saw the Seminoles each fly to their hometowns for some family time after last Thursday’s win at Milwaukee, FSU closes out non-conference play Saturday against Georgia State (6-4).
While there has been some preparation for the Panthers in the lead-up to Saturday, FSU also viewed this week as the final tune-up before the grind of ACC play begins.
“We were able to come back (Wednesday) and really ease into some things and get ourselves moving again, refreshed,” Semrau said.
“Now, we’re going to go and work on some fundamental things that we feel like we need to shore up to be ready for conference play.”
Added Woolfolk, “We try to fix all the little things that we can in certain games like this. They mean a lot, but at the same time, it’s just us preparing for ACC play. I think having one more game to get ready is very good for us.”
Into the poll
With the Seminoles debuting in the Coaches Poll this week, they did so a bit ahead of schedule.
FSU — a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four seasons — entered the season with lower expectations due to an extremely young roster.
While the team hasn’t concerned itself much with the polls, there was an admitted sense of confirmation that they’re on the right path when they were included this week.
“We weren’t really thinking about it, but it actually boosted our confidence,” Woolfolk said of the ranking.
“A lot of people thought we wouldn’t make it to the Top 25, but we did and that just boosted our confidence to work harder and to prove to everybody that we can actually make it that far.”
Added Semrau, “It’s not something that we really talk about as a coaching staff because we know that we have a lot to prove, but that is the point that we talked about. We’re talented, but we’re unproven so they’ve taken that as a chip a little bit.”
This season was always going to be a building block season with a goal of turning a base of young players into established veterans who aim to contend in the years to come.
While contention may still be a while off, an attitude of not settling has already arrived.
“It’s really good, but that’s not our main goal,” Weber said of the ranking.
“Our goal is to be a national championship team. 25 is good, but we’re a lot better than that.”
No. 25 Florida State vs. Georgia State
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Where: Tucker Civic Center
TV/Radio: WatchESPN (Online)/106.1 FM