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FSU, UNC feature high-scoring offenses

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The 11th-ranked Florida State Women’s Basketball team is looking to bounce back on Sunday afternoon as it hosts North Carolina at 2 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

Two of the ACC’s highest-scoring units will entertain the crowd on Sunday. The North Carolina Tar Heels (12-3, 3-1) average 77.27 points per game (second-most) while the Seminoles (14-2, 3-2) are averaging 77.19 points (third-best in the conference).

Florida State has a program-record four-game win streak against North Carolina dating back to 2016, winning two games in Tallahassee and two in Chapel Hill during that time. Sunday’s meeting will be the 48th all-time in series history, with UNC holding a 33-14 edge.

FSU won a close game last year in Chapel Hill, winning 64-63 behind Nausia Woolfolk’s 20 points and Nicki Ekhomu’s clutch free throws down the stretch.

Sunday’s matchup will mark the second time FSU head coach Sue Semrau and first-year UNC head coach Courtney Banghart go head-to-head. Semrau won the first matchup during Banghart’s reign at Princeton, winning 60-44 in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Waco, Texas. In 2015, both Semrau (AP, ESPNW, WBCA) and Banghart (Naismith) won national coach of the year honors.

Woolfolk became the 37th Seminole to eclipse 1,000 career points last game vs. Georgia Tech, joining Ekhomu (1,158) on the active list. Fellow senior forward Kiah Gillespie has a combined 1,090 points in her collegiate career, with 785 of them coming in her 1 1/2 seasons as a Seminole.

FSU track and field opens indoor season

Newcomer Isaac Grimes and junior Jayla Kirkland set Clemson facility records Saturday as Florida State athletes combined for five victories at Saturday’s season-opening Orange & Purple Elite meet.

Grimes delivered one of four wins for the top-ranked FSU men, sailing 7.91 meters (25-11.5) on his final long jump attempt. That mark not only took down the previous facility record of 7.82 meters, shared by Florida’s KeAndre Bates and Texas’ O’Brien Waisome, but secured the junior transfer a spot at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

The former Division II NCAA champion from Chadron State also moved to No. 5 on FSU’s all-time list in his first competition in garnet & gold.

“I expected to be around the eight-meter range, so I’m pretty happy with where I ended today,” Grimes said. “I feel a little more relaxed about everything now, so I can go back to practice and figure out the more technical stuff I need to do better the rest of the season.”

Kirkland ran 7.17 in the 60-meter dash final, breaking the seven-year old facility record previously held by 17-time All-American Dezerea Bryant, to record the victory. The Birmingham, Ala. native not only crushed her previous best (7.24), but moved into the very early NCAA lead with the No. 2 time in FSU history.

Qualifying second-fastest (7.29) for the final behind World Athletics U18 100-meter record-holder Briana Williams’ 7.27, Kirkland exploded from the blocks in the final and won going away. Williams was second in 7.25.

“I felt really good knowing I had a great fall of training with a great coach,” Kirkland said. “I just knew I had done amazing things in training and had no doubt I would come into this meet and do great things…

“I’m the most fit I’ve ever been and I’m also more mentally strong than I’ve ever been. I think it’s going to be a great season.”

It was the lone victory of the day for the 11th-ranked Seminole women in the season-opening rust-buster.

Established Seminole stars Trey Cunningham and Kasaun James delivered victories in the 60-meter hurdles and 300-meter dash, respectively, while freshman Taylor Banks’ debut produced a 60-meter dash title.

Yet the wins alone told only a small part of the bigger story.

On the day the  men and women combined for 21 personal-best marks – 13 for the women and eight for the men – and six new entries on the FSU all-time top-10 lists.

Better still, four Noles assured themselves a spot at the NCAA Indoor Championships with marks that have historically never failed to earn one of 16 qualifying spots in each event.

Cunningham, who was named to The Bowerman Watch List, recorded the fastest opener of his three-year collegiate career. The Winfield, Ala. native laid down an NCAA-leading time of 7.61 in the final, backing up his preliminary round 7.65 and significantly eclipsing his previous best season-opening time (7.74).

Junior transfer Caleb Parker kept the pressure on Cunningham from the start, finishing second in a lifetime-best time of 7.64, the No. 2 time nationally and the fourth-fastest mark in FSU history. Junior Tyricke Highman was fifth with his second personal-best of the day, following up his preliminary-round 7.88 by running 7.78 in the final. Highman came into the meet with a personal-best of 7.91 – eighth-fastest in program history – and now sits at No. 6 after posting the eighth-fastest time in the NCAA this season.

“What a spectacular 60-meter hurdles race,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “Two national qualifiers and another one incredibly close. I can’t say enough about that group.”

James, one of three Noles competing in the rarely-contested 300-meter dash, destroyed the field with a time of 32.85. And while he came up five-hundredths of a second shy of the facility record, James’ mark eclipsed Brandon Byram’s school record time of 33.19, set in 2011 by the multi-time All-American.

There was plenty of pre-race intrigue in the 60-meter dash, which pitted Banks against Georgia’s Matthew Boling, in a showdown of touted freshmen. Boling, who won four gold medals for Team USA at the Pan American U20 Championships this past summer, was the nation’s fastest sprinter as a high school senior. Banks had entered his senior year at Miramar High as the fastest returnee in the 100-meter dash.

The first collegiate match-up between the youngsters went to Banks, who backed up his head-to-head preliminary heat win (6.69-6.74), by prevailing in the final with a new personal-best of 6.67. Boling was second in 6.68.

“I’m really pleased with the way Taylor, and Jeremiah Davis, competed,” Braman said. “You usually don’t handle yourself that well in your first collegiate meet.”

Davis, a freshman jumper, placed fourth in the long jump with a personal-best (7.37m/24-2.25), which was an ACC Championship qualifying mark. He also advanced to finals in the triple jump in his collegiate debut.

While the women didn’t muster many victories, they did record a number of promising results.

Junior transfer Jazmyn Dennis opened her FSU career by clearing 3.95 meters (12-11.5) to finish third in the pole vault. Just two centimeters off her indoor personal-best, the former Florida A&M start moved to No. 5 on the Noles’ all-time list in her debut.

Sophomore Trentorria Green eclipsed her previous indoor triple jump best on all five of her marks, finishing fifth overall with a best of 12.75 meters (41-10), which gave her a share of the No. 8 position on FSU’s all-time list.

Competing in the 300-meter dash, senior Janae Caldwell finished third in 38.47; a time that trails only former FSU greats Marita Payne and Randy Givens. Sophomore Karimah Davis finished seventh in 38.89.

Sarah Myers posted the top performance among a corps of distance runners competing indoors for the first time, winning the second heat of the 3000-meter run in 10:36.38, which was 12th out of 26 runners.

“Overall I was really pleased with our effort,” Braman said. “They clearly did their off-season training and came back ready to compete. The indoor season can become a marathon, so we have to keep working hard and stay healthy. But I like our early-season position for both teams.”

The Seminoles’ top women’s distance runners will open next week at Vanderbilt, where the throws group will open up as well, joined by the jumpers.

FSU men’s tennis defeats La. Lafayette, FAMU

The Florida State men’s tennis team (3-0, 0-0 ACC) finished the weekend going 2-0 on Saturday with wins over Louisiana Lafayette and Florida A&M.

“It was good getting two wins today,” said coach Dwayne Hultquist. “We got behind in the first one and had to battle back, but it was good to see us get stronger as the match went on.  I was really pleased with Marcus (Walters) and Alex (Knaff) coming back and dominating their second and third sets after losing the first to lead us to the 5-2 win.”

Louisiana Lafayette Match Recap: The day began with the Noles losing their first doubles point of the season. Senior Rana Roop-Singh Bhullar and junior Chase Wood were the first doubles loss of the day losing on court three, 6-4. Louisiana Lafayette took the doubles point with a 6-3 win on court one.

Florida State bounced back in singles to take five of six matches. Sophomore Richard Thongoana quickly tied the match at one with a 6-4, 6-3 victory on court six. He was followed by Bhullar on court five, who defeated his opponent 6-3, 6-3 to give FSU a 2-1 lead.

With Florida State’s only singles loss on court two, Louisiana Lafayette tied the score 2-2.  With the match tied with ULL, it didn’t faze junior Sebastian Arcila as he battled to a 7-6 (11-9) first-set victory. He made quick work in the second set with a 6-0 win to earn the Seminoles a point on court four.

For the second time this season, junior Marcus Walters clinched the win for the Noles with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory on court three. After clinching the match Senior Alex Knaff closed out the morning with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 win on court one.

FAMU Match Recap: FSU cruised through the doubles point taking courts two and one. Sophomores Bryn Nahrung and Thongoanatook won on court two 6-0, while Walters and Jalif took court one 6-4.

In singles, Florida State jumped out and took all five first sets and cruised into three singles wins.  FAMU forfeited on court six, Bhullar took court three 6-0, 6-0 and junior Enzo Le Seguillon took court five 6-1, 6-0.

FSU now looks forward to another weekend at home in Tallahassee with South Alabama (Jan. 17) and Mississippi (Jan. 19).

FSU swimming falls to Alabama

The Florida State swimming and diving teams fell to Alabama on a windy Saturday afternoon at the Morcom Aquatics Center.

The 14th-ranked men (4-3, 2-1 ACC) dropped a close decision to the Crimson Tide, 138-156, while the RV women (5-4, 1-2 ACC) fell 120-180.

“We had some good spots and some bad spots,” FSU coach Neal Studd said. “We were rusty in parts, but we had some really good highlights. I saw a great team attitude, they were screaming for each other but maybe that slow start was the difference in the day and we just couldn’t get there in the end.”

In the men’s meet, the Crimson Tide opened the meet with wins in the 200 medley relay and 1650 free.

Florida State followed with a strong showing in the 200 free, sweeping the event led by freshman Aziz Ghaffari in first (1:38.23), followed by seniors Rudo Loock (1:38.38), Vladimir Stefanik (1:40.08) and sophomore Max McCusker (1:40.63).

But Alabama answered by winning the next four races. In that stretch, the Seminoles swam a close 200 fly, but finished second, third and fourth behind senior Max Polianksi (1:39.15), freshman Nick Vance (1:49.78) and rookie Maurice Ingenrieth (1:49.97).

Off the first break, FSU found a little momentum as freshman Peter Varjasi won the 100 free (44.26) by one one-hundredth of a second after finishing second in the 50 free (20.26).

The Seminoles cruised to first and second place in the 200 back, led by Vance in first at 1:48.25, followed by sophomore Jackson Lucas in second (1:49.75).

FSU would finish second in the next three events, which were all tight races. Sophomore Izaak Bastian was the runner up in the 200 breast (2:00.91) and Ghaffari swam a strong last 50 yards in the 500 free, but also finished second at 4:31.31. McCusker added a second place finish in the 100 fly (48.29).

Varjasi picked up his second win of the day in the 200 IM, clocking a time of 1:49.02.

In diving, seniors Cam Thatcher and Aidan Faminoff dominated 1-meter, with Thatcher winning with a total of 369.90 ahead of Faminoff in second (290.25). The pair placed second and third on 3-meter as Thatcher took second (315.68) and Faminoff finishing third (301.05).

“The conditions weren’t great,” FSU head diving coach John Proctor said. “But they did a pretty good job. I don’t know what’s worse, golfing in this weather or diving in it. Overall, for where we are in the season, I thought we did a good job.”

Florida State closed the meet by taking second, third and fourth in the 200 free relay, led by the team of freshman Ian Cooper, McCusker, sophomore Kuba Ksiazek and freshman Domen Demsar at 1:21.07.

The women were led by sophomore Nina Kucheran, who won three individual events on the day. Kucheran clocked a 1:01.79 for the victory in the 100 breast, before leading a one-two charge in the 200 breast (2:14.67) and held on to take the 200 IM (2:03.14).

Florida State added wins in the 200 fly, behind sophomore Aryanna Fernandes (2:00.23) as well as both springboard diving events.

Senior Molly Carlson posted her personal best score of 363.90 for the win, which was just 7.95 points off the school record set by Kelsey Goodman (373.05) back in 2013. Her classmate, Ayla Bonniwell was the winner on 1-meter (284.55) after taking third on 3-meter (323.25).

Sophomore Kertu Alnek was the runner-up in the 200 free (1:49.86) and her classmate Maddie McDonald also took second in the 200 back (2:00.39).

Freshman Sydney VanOvermeiren followed Kucheran in second in the 200 breast at 2:18.78 and Fernades added a second place finish in the 100 fly (54.36).

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