TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State's women's basketball team wrapped up final exams this week. Now the Seminoles face a doctoral thesis-like challenge: beating top-ranked Connecticut.
The No. 11 Seminoles square off against the Huskies Friday in the Hall of Fame Women's Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. It is the first national opportunity this season for the Seminoles so show if they are a legitimate national contender after reaching the Elite Eight for the second time in six seasons last year.
''We look at it as an opportunity to grow our program,'' coach Sue Semrau said. ''But our measure is not just against UConn but the other top teams.''
Florida State played No. 2 South Carolina in a closed preseason scrimmage and will host third-ranked Notre Dame later in the season. The Seminoles are 0-13 against top-ranked teams, including a 38-point loss to Baylor in the NCAA Tournament two years ago.
Florida State has six wins over top five teams, with the most recent coming last season against then-No. 4 Louisville. The Seminoles are winless in seven previous meetings against the Huskies, with the most recent in 2010.
Since losing the opener at Florida on Nov. 16, Florida State has won its last seven games by an average of 34.1 points. A big reason for the win streak has been defense and rebounding. The Seminoles are eighth in the nation in scoring defense (49.4 points per game) and 10th field-goal percentage defense (48.3). The Huskies (7-0) lead the nation in field goal percentage offense, shooting 53.7 percent per game.
Florida State's top players - center Adut Bulgak and guard Leticia Romero - will likely have to play well for Florida State to pull off the upset.
Bulgak leads the Seminoles in scoring (16.9 points per game) while averaging 8.1 rebounds. The center already has three 20-point games this season and figures to be matched up against what many consider to be the nation's best player in Breanna Stewart.
UConn guard Kia Nurse is familiar with Bulgak; both have played with Canada's national team.
''She can step out and stretch the defense with her ability to hit a 3 and, as a big post player she is always on the offensive boards,'' Nurse said. ''She is really tough for other teams to guard because she is such a dynamic player and a difficult matchup.''
Romero, who missed three games due to ankle injury, is averaging 12 points. Over the past three games though the junior is 18 of 32 from the field (56.3 percent) and averaging 13.3 points.
''It's early in the season but if you want to be in the top and show you are able to compete these are the games you need,'' Romero said. ''To have this experience going further along later in the season should help us and show us now how we need to improve.''