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Howard’s 30 points, 16 rebounds key comeback victory
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – After Natasha Howard did much of the heavy lifting, ninth-seeded Florida State collectively pushed its way past eighth-seeded Miami in Thursday’s Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament second-round game.
Howard scored 30 points and pulled down 16 rebounds, as the Seminoles overcame an eight-point deficit in the second half to force overtime, and Florida State prevailed in the five extra minutes for a 72-67 victory.
Cheetah Delgado added a career-high 20 points for Florida State (20-11), including a key 3-pointer that gave the Seminoles a four-point lead with 31 seconds remaining in overtime. The victory sent Florida State into Friday’s 2 p.m. quarterfinal game, where it will face top-seeded and unbeaten Notre Dame.
Miami (16-14) came up short despite seeing five players score in double figures and shooting 8-of-15 from 3-point range. Necole Sterling led the Hurricanes with 14 points, and Krystal Saunders added 12.
Saunders’ 3-ponter from the left wing with just under 11 minutes left in regulation gave Miami a 47-39 lead. But Florida State, keyed by 10 points from Howard, charged down the stretch. When Howard followed up a Delgado miss with 49.8 seconds remaining, the Seminoles led 56-55 – their first lead since 10-9 at the 10:44 mark of the first half.
When Howard blocked a shot on Miami’s ensuing possession and connected on a pair of free throws for a 58-55 FSU edge, the Seminoles appeared on the verge of winning in regulation. But Sterling countered with a 3-pointer from the right wing for Miami, tying the score at 58-all and sending the game into the 17th overtime in tournament history.
Miami regained the lead on a Sterling bucket seconds into the overtime period, but the Seminoles’ Emiah Bingley countered with a 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 run. Two layups – the first by Howard and the second by Ivey Slaughter off a pass from Brittany Brown, put the Seminoles up 65-60 with 1:58 on the clock.
Miami had a final gasp when it closed within 65-64 in the final minute, but Delgado’s 3-pointer at 31 seconds that just beat the shot clock pushed Florida State back in front by four. Free throws by Delgado and Morgan Jones sealed it for the ‘Noles.
Howard’s double-double capped a stellar afternoon in which she also stood out defensively with four blocked shots and six steals.
Before Florida State’s offense awakened midway through the second half, Miami seemed on the verge of taking control. The Hurricanes had established a bit of breathing room toward the end of the first half with a run of six unanswered points. Maria Brown knocked in a short jumper, Keyona Hayes added a layup off a pass from Jessica Thomas, and Sterling found Suriya McGuire for another Hurricane basket.
The flurry gave Miami a 29-22 lead with just two minutes remaining in the half, and head coach Katie Meier’s team went on to maintain the seven-point edge (33-26) at the break.
Hayes led the Hurricanes’ first-half scoring with eight points, and freshman Adrienne Motley scored seven in the first 20 minutes. Howard (11 points) and Delgado (nine) accounted for 20 of Florida State’s 26 first-half points.
Miami’s lead held up for the first 10 minutes of the second half, and the Hurricanes seemed set to counterpunch every FSU surge. But Howard and the Seminoles ultimately wouldn’t be denied.
The 37th Annual ACC Women's Basketball Tournament will continue throughout the week at the Greensboro Coliseum, and will conclude with the 7 p.m. championship contest on Sunday, March 9. The title game will be televised on ESPN, and Saturday’s 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. semifinal games will be shown nationally via ESPNU. All 11 games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be broadcast on the league’s regional sports network (RSN). The entire tournament can also be seen on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.