TALLAHASSEE, FL – With just eight healthy bodies, No. 24/21 Florida State Women’s Basketball had to dig deep. And on the shoulders of redshirt junior Kiah Gillespie, the No. 24/21 Seminoles (18-3, 6-2) found a way as they pulled out a 62-58 win over 23rd-ranked Miami on Thursday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Gillespie, who continues to be the only player in the ACC in the Top 5 in scoring and rebounding, registered her eighth 20-point game of the season. However, it was her 18 second-half points, when FSU needed them the most, that proved to be the spark in turning around a nine-point deficit and taking the lead for good.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said following the game. “That’s a really good Miami team. “I thought our defensive intensity stepped up in the second half and that was the difference in the game.”
Florida State’s ball pressure, ball denial and all its other defensive execution allowed it to force 23 turnovers for the second straight game. The Seminoles turned those miscues into 19 points, a key area considering that scoring in the half court was no easy feat against a good Hurricanes (18-5, 6-2) defensive squad.
“I think it was our guards. It always starts with their ball pressure,” Gillespie said when discussing the keys to Thursday’s win. “It was hard for them to find their post players and I think we did it together as a great team.”
FSU’s defense forced a Miami team that entered Thursday averaging 76.4 points to shoot just 36.7 percent (22-of-60) from the floor. The Hurricanes held a 19-10 lead with 7:44 to go in the first half, but FSU’s defense held strong over the remaining period as it trailed just 22-20 at the half.
That’s when Gillespie opted to take over in the game’s final 20 minutes. A 19-8 third quarter by the Seminoles was bolstered by an 11-0 run, giving FSU a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.
In the final frame, the Hurricanes stormed back to a 44-42 deficit with 6:52 remaining, but Gillespie had an 8-0 run of her own headlined by two enormous 3-point field goals to give FSU a 52-42 lead with 3:18 remaining.
The contributions of redshirt freshman Sayawni Lassiter could not be understated, as she scored a career-high 11 points and went 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Lassiter made several big free throws down the stretch, and her defensive pressure ignited a short-handed Seminoles squad that just lost top-notch perimeter defender Amaya Brown to a season-ending knee injury last week.
Lassiter’s performance at the charity stripe helped FSU go 12-of-13 from the free throw line.
With the win, FSU extended its win streak in games with a five-point margin or less to 13 straight dating back to last season. The Seminoles are 8-0 this season in games at five points or less.
Miami was led by Beatrice Mompremier’s double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Mykea Gray led the team with 14 points and four 3-point field goals.
The Seminoles return to the Donald L. Tucker Center on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. vs. Wake Forest. Florida State will celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Sunday, with a pre-game sports clinic taking place before the game from 1-2 p.m.
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