In thrilling fashion, the fourth-seeded Florida State Women’s Basketball team held strong to take down top-seeded Louisville, 62-60, on Saturday in the ACC Tournament Semifinal at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“Proud of the way our team battled,” FSU coach Sue Semrau said. “Louisville is an excellent team. After going up there and pulling out a win I knew they would come out with a lot of fire. They did, but we matched it. I’m proud of my seniors. They are something else. They were not going to be denied today. You saw Nausia go down. I thought she might be out. You saw Kiah go down.
“But they battled, and I’m guessing, yeah, that we won the rebounding battle and that was huge. I’m just really, really proud of them. Ready for tomorrow.”
The Seminoles (24-7) held a 62-60 lead after senior point guard Nicki Ekhomu went 1-of-2 from the free throw line with seven seconds remaining. Following a Louisville timeout, the Cardinals (28-4) received the ball in the front court. ACC Player of the Year Dana Evans was defended well driving to the basket by Morgan Jones and missed a floater in the lane, and a subsequent put-back attempt by the Cardinals also missed, allowing FSU to celebrate at mid-court as time expired.
FSU heads to its second ACC Championship title game and its first since 2015. The win by the Seminoles will snap a seven-year drought of the No. 1 seed winning the ACC Tournament.
The Seminoles have now defeated two Top-5 Cardinals teams this year, upending them 67-59 on the road on Feb. 6 and taking them down on Saturday (fourth-ranked). FSU’s last four wins over AP Top 5 opponents have come against Louisville, all since 2015.
Redshirt senior forward Kiah Gillespie had a gutsy effort, securing her 25th career double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting. Gillespie went down with 26 seconds left with FSU trailing 56-55 after she was undercut on a shot attempt and was forced to leave the game.
Sophomore Kourtney Weber followed with the heroics. She substituted for Gillespie and made both pressure free throws to give FSU the one-point lead. Louisville then tried to in-bound the ball in the front court following a timeout, but Weber tipped the in-bound pass as it was corralled by Ekhomu, who hit two more free throws to make it 59-56.
“If you saw her play yesterday you know she’s coming into her own,” Semrau added of Weber. “She looked at me with wide eyes like it’s me! I trust her so much at the free throw line and in the game. I’m proud of her, back-to-back really good games.”
Ekhomu finished with 14 points and five assists and also drew seven fouls. Senior guard Nausia Woolfolk, who left the game briefly but returned following injury, finished with a team-high 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. She hit two big free throws with 17 seconds left to give FSU a 61-58 lead.
“I think the team as well as myself, we like competition,” Woolfolk added. “Louisville is a team that always brings it so at the end of the day the mindset was do anything you can do to help the team win, concentrate on the free throw line, making sure the team’s head is in the game and at the free throw line they were 8 for 9 and that was a key win to the game.”
Down the stretch, the Seminoles made seven of their eight pressure free throw attempts. They went 8-of-9 from the line overall.
Gillespie tied for the second-fastest Seminole ever to record 1,000 points when she buried a 3-pointer to make it 39-35 with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter. The redshirt senior accomplished the milestone in just 64 career games played.
Jones added four points and six boards. Sammie Puisis hit two crucial 3-pointers, including one with 2:52 remaining that allowed FSU to re-take the lead at 53-52.
Florida State once again flexed its muscle on the glass, out-rebounding Louisville 36-31. Evans finished with 16 points for the Cardinals, followed by 15 points from Jazmine Jones.
FSU will face the winner of No. 2 seed NC State and No. 6 seed Boston College on Sunday at noon (ESPN2).