(22) Florida State (17-3, 5-2 ACC) defeated Virginia Tech (13-7, 0-7 ACC) 56-54 this afternoon in Blacksburg, VA.
The Hokies got off to a great start in this one. After a Trinity Baptiste triple VT found themselves up 10-2 with about five minutes left in the first quarter. The Noles fought back with a 9-2 run that was sparked by a Morgan Jones layup. Aisha Sheppard broke the run with a three ball and the quarter ended with Tech up 15-11.
VT started the second quarter with five straight points to take a 20-11 lead. From there the two teams mostly traded baskets until Taylor Emery hit a fast break layup to beat the halftime buzzer. The Hokies carried a 28-21 lead into halftime.
Emery started the third quarter with a jumper to put Virginia Tech up 30-21. FSU responded with a quick 6-0 run that was sparked by a Valencia Myers layup. After a pair of free throws from Alexis Jean, the Noles rattled off five straight points to tie the game at 32 with about seven minutes left in the quarter. However, the Hokies answered in fine fashion with an 11-0 run that was sparked by a three from Emery. Nausia Woolfolk snapped the run with an excellent steal and fast break layup. The quarter ended on a jumper from Nicki Ekhomu but the Seminoles were still down 45-37 going into the final period.
Woolfolk started the fourth with a (rare) triple for FSU but Baptiste immediately answered with a three ball of her own. The teams traded baskets until the Noles made a move with about four and a half minutes left in the game. FSU ended the game on a 12-2 run that was sparked by defense.
With 40.2 seconds left FSU was down 54-51. The Noles were scrambling on defense hounding Emery as she brought the ball up court. Morgan Jones was called for a foul on Emery but at the end of the play Emery stuck her elbow out and caught Jones in the throat. After a review the officials awarded Emery her two free throws for a common foul on Jones but FSU was awarded two free throws and the ball for an unsportsmanlike foul for Emery’s elbow. Emery – an 84% FT shooter – missed both of her free throws. FSU chose to have Ekhomu shoot the unsportsmanlike free throws and she drained both of them to draw the Seminoles within one at 54-53. On the ensuing possession Woolfolk penetrated from the wing with a dribble drive and got fouled. Woolfolk hit both foul shots to give the Noles their first lead of the game at 55-54 with only 22.2 seconds left in the game. FSU got a stop on VT’s next possession and Woolfolk was fouled with 10 seconds left after she secured the defensive rebound. Woolfolk hit one of two to put FSU up 56-54. Tech had one last gasp left but when Dara Mabrey’s triple missed FSU was able to salt the last two seconds away to get an improbable win.
Nausia Woolfolk led FSU with 27 points and six steals. Nicki Ekhomu had 16 points on 6-21 shooting.
This was a big win for FSU but it came at a (potentially) large cost. With 1:37 left in the game Amaya Brown went down with an injury when her right knee buckled underneath her. She already wears a large brace on her left knee from an ACL tear she sustained in high school. She stayed on the floor in obvious pain for several minutes before being carried off to the locker room by a trainer. I can’t speculate on the injury but it is never good when a player can’t leave the court under their own power.
There were two big stats in this game. FSU shot dismally (again) from three. The Noles were 2-21 (9.5%). However, FSU forced VT into 23 turnovers while committing only eight of their own. Many of these turnovers were of the live ball variety leading to easy transition layups for Florida State.
I realize that VT is only 0-7 in the ACC but to win a road conference game in which you shoot only 2-21 from three is remarkable. However, it goes without saying that FSU will have to find a way to shoot better if they want to have any chance of beating the better teams in the conference.
The coaching staff did an exceptional job switching defenses in this game. FSU threw the kitchen sink at the Hokies. There were full court presses, half court traps, jump traps, zones, man to man defenses. I don’t think that I have seen so many different defenses from FSU in one game in a long time. It didn’t always work as VT did get some layups after beating the pressure but defense got FSU back in the game. The poor shooting meant that the Seminoles were struggling against Tech’s zone. Therefore, FSU needed to speed up the game to get transition buckets or early offense. The traps and presses facilitated this strategy. It also allowed FSU to leverage its superior quickness and therefore allowed Woolfolk and Ekhomu the opportunity for steals and runouts.
Florida State is now 7-0 on the season in games decided by four points or less.
Florida State will welcome the Miami Hurricanes (18-4, 6-1 ACC) to Tallahassee on Thursday. The game tips at 7pm and will be broadcast on the ACCNetwork Extra. Miami edged Boston College 76-73 today.