Florida State looks to advance in NCAA tourney on home court
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Coach Sue Semrau entered this season at Florida State with the challenge of getting a roster of talented transfers on the same page so they could learn to play together.
''From the very beginning, we said it was going to be about unity,'' Semrau said. ''If we could connect the dots, then we could be a very special basketball team.''
The seventh-ranked Seminoles (29-4) start NCAA Tournament play Saturday on their home court as a second-seed against Alabama State (17-14), which won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament to earn a No. 15 seed.
''We made a name for ourselves,'' said senior Seminoles guard Maegan Conwright, a transfer from Kentucky and Florida State's top 3-point shooter.
The new Seminole hybrid is comprised of players from six states, Spain, Germany and Canada.
The Florida State-Alabama State winner advances to take on the winner of the Florida Gulf Coast (30-2)-Oklahoma State (20-11) showdown, a rematch of last year's first-round game in which the Cowgirls prevailed 61-60 in overtime.
''It's two teams that are very familiar with each other,'' Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. ''We're both very familiar with how the other teams wants to play.''
Florida Gulf Coast is in its third NCAA Tournament in four years and second in a row.
''We hope we can play well enough to advance,'' FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. ''We look good right now. I feel good about this group.''
Smesko's club continues to rank among the national leaders, putting up 871 long range attempts (more than 27 per game). White Knight hit on 43 percent of her 200 attempts and finished the season with a team best 14.9 points a game average.
Some things to look for in Saturday's matchups:
ALMOST PERFECT: Florida Gulf Coast was a bad bounce or two from being the third undefeated Division I team, joining the Kentucky men's team and the women from Princeton. FGCU's only two losses were by three points at Auburn and in double overtime to Ohio State in a holiday tournament in the Virgin Islands.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Florida Gulf Coast junior Whitney Knight was the regular season Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and the league's tournament Most Valuable Player as well. A 6-3 guard from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Knight averaged 14.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game on the season. Alabama State sophomore Britney Wright was named MVP in the SWAC tourney. For the season, she averaged 17 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. Florida State freshman Shakayla Thomas averaged 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds while playing slightly more than 19 minutes a game and was honored with the best ''sixth man'' award in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
BOARD WORK: Alabama State's 6-2 junior center, Jasmine Peeples, is the lone player in the tournament averaging double figures in rebounds with an average of 10.2 a game. Florida State's Adut Bulgak just missed at 9.9.
BY THE NUMBERS: Florida State has won 11 straight first-round NCAA games dating back to the 1991 season while first-round opponent Alabama State makes its second NCAA appearance and first since 2003. FGCU coach Karl Smesko is 343-66 at the school in 13 seasons, an .839 winning percentage. The Eagles were one of nine teams to win 30 games this season. Florida State's Sue Semrau is 342-217, a .614 winning percentage, in 18 seasons. Tenth-seeded Oklahoma State advanced to last year's Sweet 16.