Florida State beats Western Illinois 87-66 in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center March 17.(Photo: Hali Tauxe/Democrat)Buy Photo
If you want a great example of the selflessness of FSUs womens basketball team, look no further than senior center Kai James.
James was an ESPNW top-25 recruit when she came to Florida State out of Dwyer in West Palm Beach. She was the No. 3 center in her class and a two-time all-state player.
While with Florida State, things havent quite clicked for James in terms of playing time. This season, shes averaging 7.4 minutes per game and 3.4 points per game. Her career high is 11 minutes per game. Shes still a fan favorite theres a mini celebration every time she steps on the floor.
And still, before every game, James is right in the middle of Florida States huddle making sure the team is excited and ready to play. She might not even see the court, but shes in charge of getting the team hyped up before NCAA tournament matches.
Ive been here four years, James said. I know its about team basketball. Coach Sue has definitely taught me though. Its more about we than it is about me. It doesnt matter who puts the ball in the basket because we all win together and we all lose together.
Third-seeded FSU takes on 6-seed Missouri on Sunday at 7:10 p.m. for the right to go to the Sweet 16.
White, Thomas shine in FSU’s rout of W. Illinois
James lost minutes this year due to the emergence of ACC Sixth Player of the Year Chatrice White and the because of the great play of Ama Degbeon. The two are Semraus primary post players off the bench.
Friday, during FSUs first-round victory over Western Illinois, White was having a stellar game. She put up 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and head coach Sue Semrau said she didnt have to reach too far down her bench to give the Illinois transfer a break.
Degbeon, who usually comes in right after White, was just fine with that. She said, Chatrice is balling out of control. Let her ball out of control.
This is the NCAA tournament.Players should be chomping at the bit for some time on the floor. Degbeon who is just starting to get real minutes as a junior after two years of averaging less than two points per game was OK letting White shine.
The team chemistry has been really great this year, Degbeon said. Everyone wants to play, we know that, but people are not putting themselves first. Theyre putting the team first. They cheer on the bench like crazy, it doesnt matter how they play.
Its amazing. Its even fun to sit on the bench.
I get the feeling Degbeon really means that. FSU is one victory away from a third-consecutive appearance in the Sweet 16.
Its so fun to coach when you have players that want the team to succeed, no matter who gets the credit, Semrau said. You look at players who were the best where they came from, and to be able to set aside their own personal credit and accomplishments for the team is what athletics are all about.
Im sure it is, coach.
Its easy to talk about team chemistry. Its a pretty nebulous concept. It could mean how well the group passes the ball around, how fluid the group is on offense or how quick players are to help on defense. It could mean how well players get along off the court.
FSUs post players showed what chemistry can look like in action. Ivey Slaughter, a starter, had an impact against the Leathernecks, but she wasnt the star. She took a back seat.
Against Missouri, she could be the star. Degbeon could provide more key minutes off the bench. White could repeat as the best player in the paint. James could come on shine.
For the record, this is all true for FSUs guards. The post players are being talked about for the sake of this column, but Brittany Brown, Leticia Romero, Imani Wright any of them could go for 20 in a game.
Shakayla Thomas could score all of FSUs points and the team would be happy to advance.
Thats real chemistry. And, if it holds up, its what will separate FSU from other teams in the field.
Everyone is good at this point in the season. Only 64 teams make the tournament.
Something has to separate the good teams from the Final Four teams.
The confidence that no matter who has the ball, a shot as the potential to go in, could carry the Seminoles past Missouri and all the way to Dallas.
Florida State vs. Missouri
When/where: 7:10 p.m., Sunday, Tucker Civic Center
TV/Radio: ESPN2/106.1 FM
3 Florida State
First round: 87-66 over No. 14 Western Illinois
Top scorer: Shakayla Thomas, 15 ppg
3-pointers: FSU is looking to get to the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row. … Shakayla Thomas has scored at least 10 points in 11 straight games and in 13 of the last 14 games. … After a seven-game slump where Leticia Romero averaged just 6.7 points per game, she’s averaged 13 points per game over her last four.
First round: 66-64 over No. 6 South Florida
Top scorer: Sophie Cunningham, 17.5 ppg
3-pointers: Former Maclay star Hannah Schuchts is a player who comes off the bench for Missouri. She played five minutes against USF and didn’t score. … The Tigers are the best 3-point shooting team in the SEC in terms of 3-pointers made. They’ve hit 221 shots from beyond the arc this season. … The Tigers are looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in program history.
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Culver: Chemistry could carry FSU to Sweet 16 – Tallahassee.com
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