Florida State women's basketball: Seminoles use big fourth to blow out rival Gators

Ehsan Kassim
Tallahassee Democrat

Florida State women’s basketball was able to exact revenge for last year’s loss against rival Florida on Wednesday.

The Seminoles took down the Gators 92-77 to win their fourth straight game to open the season at Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.

Freshman Ta’Niya Latson led FSU (4-0) with 32 points, five rebounds and four assists, leading FSU to a 4-0 start for the second straight season and the fifth time in six seasons. 

Florida (2-1) trailed by as many as 18 points midway through the second quarter but was able to tie the game at 61 late in the third quarter.

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The Gators won last year’s matchup 69-55 in Gainesville, prompting senior Erin Howard to declare “we owe Florida.

For Latson, it was her first foray into the rivalry. 

"It was surreal," she said. "Honestly, I had a good time though."

Florida leads the all-time series 45-38, but the Seminoles have won nine of the last 11 matchups, including seven straight meetings in Tallahassee.

The Seminoles outscored the Gators by 10 to pull away in the fourth.

O’Mariah Gordon, Mariana Valenzuela and Jazmine Massengill each scored a season-high in points. Valenzuela scored 13 points, while Gordon and Massengill had 12. Makayla Timpson flirted with a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. 

FSU used an 8-2 run to close out the quarter to wrestle back control.

KK Deans scored 13 of her 23 points in the third to lead the Gators. The points were a season-high for the senior. She flirted with a quadruple-double, adding six rebounds, five assists and eight turnovers. Lelani Correa added a season-high 22 points.

Here are three takeaways from the Seminoles' victory.

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Complete game

Considering the opponent and the rival nature of the game, head coach Brooke Wyckoff said Thursday's win was the most complete game of the season for the Seminoles.

FSU shot 51% from the field, 33% from 3-point range and connected on 75% of its free throws. The Seminoles won every quarter except the third quarter, where the Gators stormed back.

"I really think we put four good quarters together," Wyckoff said. "They gave us a good run in the third quarter, but we hung in there and didn't let them get away with it. I am proud of this team. 

"I had a feeling they would step up knowing who the opponent is and they did. They took a big step by putting together a complete game."

The Seminoles were without guards Valencia Myers (concussion protocol) and Taylor O'Brien (lower leg injury) on Wednesday. Wyckoff said she did not have a timetable for their returns.

But in the absence of those players, Gordon was among the players counted on to step up with five players scoring in double-figures. 

In her second game back, she scored 12 points and added three assists in 21 minutes.

Erin Howard finished with eight points and six rebounds.

"We just played off each other," Gordon said. "One play Ta'Niya might score, the next Sara (Bejedi) might score. ... We put our bodies and we just play for each other and get the win."

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Big night for Latson

Latson scored 30 points for the second time this season and for the first time at home. She shot 12 of 21 from the field, with most of her buckets coming near the rim.

Once again, she showed her ability to finish through contact, finishing a total of five and one's for the game. She shot 8 for 9 from the free throw line.

"It's always been a part of my game, getting to the basket," Latson said. "I take every play seriously, so I just had to get the bucket."

"There was a little luck," Latson added about her finishes at the rim.

The only thing she did not do is connect on a 3-pointer, missing her only attempt.

But she was able to add five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Late in the third quarter, she converted an and-one and then two plays later stole the ball and got to the hoop with ease to push the FSU lead to eight after Florida tied it.

UF coach Kelly Rae Finley was impressed by the freshman playing in only her fourth collegiate game.

"She's a tremendous player," Finley said. "She's in her first year and she's an explosive athlete that's very creative and has an extremely good ability to score the ball."

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Tough night for Florida

The Gators started slow and despite making a comeback in the third quarter, never really found their groove. They finished 39% shooting from the field and also committed 25 turnovers.

Florida finished 8-for-20 from 3-point range (40%) to keep itself close in the third quarter before the Seminoles took over.

"I am super proud of this team," Wyckoff said. "It's great to beat Florida, they are a great program. They are a great team, a very talented team."

Deans led the scoring attack, especially in the third quarter when the Gators made their comeback. She finished 5-of-8 from 3-point range, giving Florida a chance when it looked bleak.

But she fouled out with 4:29 left to kill any chance of UF drawing the game close again in the fourth.

"I think our aggressiveness, our assertiveness, we didn't see a lot of shots go down early and that kind of rattled us," Finley said. "We knew that they were going to play fast. I felt our effort to come back was great. But there are a lot of things that we need to grow and improve on. And one cool thing about this team is I know they're committed to doing that."

Up next:

Florida State travels to play Houston at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. The Seminoles then travel to Cancun for games against Oklahoma State, Purdue, Harvard and Wisconsin from Nov. 24-Dec. 1.

Florida will host Bethune-Cookman (Friday) and Furman (Monday) in a pair of home games at Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville. Both game are scheduled for 6 p.m. (SEC Network+).

Reach Ehsan Kassim at ekassim@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).

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