Georgia ousts Florida State women from March Madness 66-54

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Georgia coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said her first season as the Bulldogs’ head coach was an internal battle to find “stars.”

“The star,” she said, “was our defense.”

The Lady Bulldogs’ zone defense stifled Florida State in Friday’s 66-54 win in a women’s NCAA Tournament first-round game.

Diamond Battles scored 21 points and Audrey Warren added 11 points as the 10th-seeded Lady Bulldogs (22-11) advanced to Sunday’s second round to face either No. 2 seed Iowa or 15th-seeded Southeastern Louisiana.

Georgia held the seventh-seeded Seminoles (23-10) to just 26.9% shooting from the field, including 22.9% in the second half.

“They’re big, they’re physical,” Florida State coach Brooke Wyckoff said. “It’s not your typical stand-around zone. They’re very aggressive. They play 100% zone, and they know what they’re doing.”

The Lady Bulldogs have embraced their defensive mentality. Asked why the zone works so well, Battles smiled and said, “I don’t want to give away any secrets.”

She did go into a little bit of detail, though.

“It’s ball pressure,” Battles said. “I think most teams struggle with the pressure, because it is a zone. We try to upset their offense.”

Georgia led 43-40 with 2:03 left in the third quarter before going on a 14-0 run that extended three minutes into the fourth quarter. Florida State would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the game.

“They were getting tips,” Abrahamson-Henderson said of her team’s defensive pressure in that stretch. “It was just being really savvy, getting tips, getting loose balls.”

Florida State guard Taylor O’Brien agreed, saying Georgia’s “defense was all over the place” and “we didn’t get the 50-50 balls.”

The Seminoles (23-10) had just eight available players for the tournament. The university announced on Thursday morning that freshman guard Ta’Niya Latson and sophomore guard O’Mariah Gordon were out for the rest of the season because of injuries.

Latson was an honorable-mention Associated Press All-American along with being the ACC’s Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection. She averaged 21.3 points and 4.5 rebounds this season. Gordon, who played in 30 games and started twice this season, averaged 6.9 points and two rebounds.

“We’ve played this way all year,” Florida State forward Erin Howard said. “We were used to it. It’s tough mentally, but we’ve been here before.”

Howard had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead Florida State. O’Brien had 15 points.

“We’re obviously very disappointed,” Wyckoff said. “We were confident coming in here. Unfortunately, the ball wouldn’t drop all day.”

Jordan Isaacs had 10 points and Javyn Nicholson had 13 rebounds for Georgia.

“I’m just proud of the buy-in,” Abrahamson-Henderson said of how the Lady Bulldogs have responded in her first season as their head coach. “At the beginning, I was talking about, ‘We’re going to be good, we’re going to be good, we’re going to be good.’ It was about getting used to playing with each other.”


Florida State: The Seminoles built a first-half lead, but couldn’t sustain it as they missed shots in the second half. Not having Latson’s scoring proved to be costly, as Florida State had trouble getting to the basket against Georgia’s defense. “At the beginning of the game, we were getting the shots we wanted,” Howard said.

Georgia: The Lady Bulldogs had their own shooting woes to open the game – they shot just 28.6% in the first quarter – but found an offensive rhythm and took advantage of the Seminoles’ struggles. Georgia went nine deep in the game, taking advantage of Florida State’s lack of depth.

Duke women’s coach Kara Lawson says men’s ball used vs. FSU

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Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida Stated.

The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida – the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.

After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 , Lawson ended her news conference by speaking animatedly.

“This would never happen in a men’s game. This would never happen. It’s embarrassing for our sport,” she said.

The circumference of a women’s ball is about an inch smaller than a men’s ball and it is typically 2 ounces lighter. While it may not seem like a lot, that’s a big difference.

Lawson said throughout the first half, Duke players were “complaining about the ball.” The Blue Devils were 7 for 34 from the field in the opening 20 minutes of that game. They were 12 for 38 in the second half. Florida State made 10 of its 30 shots in the first two quarters and 14 of 31 in the second half.

“To have a game that, at the end of the season, could be the difference between a seed, between a title, my players don’t deserve that and neither do their players,” Lawson said. “It’s a complete failure. And you can figure out who the people I’m talking about that failed the sport and our players and both teams.”

Lawson said assistant coach Winston Gandy went to the scorer’s table at the half to check on the ball when he realized what the problem was. She said the game officials changed the ball to start the second half.

“We have concluded through our investigation that it was a men’s ball,” Lawson said. “The conference and Florida State is saying that it wasn’t.”

The ACC said it did a comprehensive review talking with game officials, administrators, the table crew and both schools.

“Following the thorough and objective review process, there was no evidence found to support the claim,” the conference said in a statement. “Per NCAA playing rules, there is no appeal or protest process.”

The ACC has instituted a procedural change that the game ball will be brought to the pregame meeting with the captains for approval.

“It’s very frustrating that (the game) … was not treated with the utmost respect that players on both teams deserve,” she said.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened in women’s basketball. In 2017, the College of Charleston played home games and practiced with men’s balls for most of its season until the error was was discovered.

“Let me be clear: Florida State beat us. They beat us playing with a men’s ball in the first half and a women’s ball in the second half. But I can’t say if we’d have played with a women’s ball in the first half and the second half that we would have won. But they can’t say that either,” Lawson said.

Young paces No. 17 Duke past Florida State, 86-67

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Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

DURHAM, N.C. — Ryan Young’s best performance in a Duke uniform looked almost perfect.

Young came off the bench for a season-high 20 points, going 7 for 7 from the field, and the No. 17 Blue Devils beat Florida State 86-67 on Saturday.

Young, a graduate transfer from Northwestern, had 12 rebounds and added to the quest for perfection by making all six free-throw attempts.

“I’m sure I’ll find something he could have done better, but he was pretty close,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said.

Jaylen Blakes scored 17 points in his first career start and reserve Dariq Whitehead added 16 points for Duke (11-3, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which is undefeated in eight home games.

Young deflected credit for his stellar outing.

“The guards were finding me in easy places to score,” he said.

Caleb Mills and Matthew Cleveland both scored 18 points and Darin Green Jr. added 16 for Florida State (4-11, 2-2), which remains winless in seven games away from home.

Even without retired Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski on the Duke bench, the Blue Devils looked familiar to veteran Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton.

“Credit to (Scheyer) to get his guys to play the Duke way,” he said. “I didn’t see any difference from the way they played in the past.”

Blakes, a sophomore, had four of the 11 baskets from 3-point range for Duke, which was playing for the first time since a Dec. 20 loss at Wake Forest.

“They knew we had to be a lot better,” Scheyer said of his players after a holiday break. “I didn’t have to convince them of that.”

The Seminoles got to within 64-53 with less than nine minutes to play before the margin ballooned to 25 points.

“Hopefully, we can learn from this,” Hamilton said. “Learn what it takes to go out and play against a team that is extremely aggressive like this.”

Duke used a 10-0 run near the midway mark of the first half and led 42-25 at halftime behind 12 points from Young and 11 from Blakes. Three of the Blue Devils’ starters didn’t score in the first half and another, Jeremy Roach, was 1 for 7 from the field.

The Seminoles had their second-lowest first-half point total of the season.

“Our guards were doing a tremendous job of keeping them out of the paint and turning defense into offense,” Young said.


A lineup tweak worked out for the Blue Devils. Blakes matched his career-high point total from the Wake Forest game.

“It’s an honor (to be a starter),” he said. “We’re all just building off each other. Whatever five guys are out there, we’re confident in.”

Scheyer said lineup adjustments shouldn’t be a surprise.

“We’ve used our depth as a strength and I don’t see that changing,” he said.


Florida State: The Seminoles were competitive for stretches but had gaps in defensive rebounding that proved costly. They got only eight points from reserves while Duke posted 46 points from its bench players.

Duke: The Blue Devils were aggressive from the start and yet they needed boosts from the reserves. They had their most bench points in an ACC game since February 2005 vs. Wake Forest. This was just Duke’s second game since Dec. 10, but there will be a steady diet of games for the rest of the season.


Blakes took freshman Tyrese Proctor’s place in Duke’s starting lineup. . Hamilton was going for his 400th win while in charge of the Seminoles and his 600th overall. . Cleveland’s 10 rebounds gave him a double-figure total in five of the last six games. . Florida State hasn’t won at Cameron Indoor Stadium since January 2012.


Florida State: Hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Duke: At North Carolina State on Wednesday.

Auriemma misses UConn’s game against Florida State

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Geno Auriemma missed No. 9 UConn’s game against Florida State on Sunday as he wasn’t feeling well after the team’s shootaround earlier in the day.

Associate head coach Chris Dailey filled in for the Hall of Famer. She’s gone 13-0 filling in for Auriemma in games he’s missed over the years.

It’s been an emotional week for the 68-year-old Auriemma. His mom passed away on Dec. 8 and the funeral was earlier this week. Marsiella Auriemma was 91 years old.

Auriemma has gone 1,156-152 in his 37 years at UConn and won 11 national championships.

Leonard Hamilton, Florida State rebuilding around ‘2-year veterans’

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Leonard Hamilton has always tried to build and win with veteran teams. This season the Florida State coach will win with a new type of veteran.

“We’re fortunate now that every one of our returning veterans, our two-year veterans, they have improved with hard work over the summer,” Hamilton said. “And to my pleasure, the incoming players that we have are farther along than I thought they would be at this stage.”

Hamilton and the Seminoles have built rosters through the years that lean on length, athleticism and depth. They have also featured a blend of seniors as well as transfers and some one-and-done stars. But the Seminoles haven’t had a situation like this, where they return just five players and all of them are beginning only their second season in Tallahassee.

Florida State’s returning five are a good foundation – productive players who are evolving into leaders. They will be complemented by a few transfers and freshmen who could help the program get back to the NCAA Tournament after falling short at 17-14 during an injury-depleted 2021-22 season.

The Seminoles return their top two scorers in guards Caleb Mills (12.7 points) and Matthew Cleveland (11.5 points). Also back is forward Cam’Ron Fletcher, who averaged 6.8 points off the bench last season, as well as center Naheem McLeod and guard Jalen Warley.

FSU also welcomes junior guard Darin Green Jr., a UCF transfer who led the team in scoring (13.3 points) and 3-pointers (87) last season. Forward Baba Miller, a 6-foot-11 forward who played for Spain’s under-18 national team over the summer, leads a freshman class that also includes center Cameron Corhen, forward De’Ante Green and guard Chandler Jackson.

Hamilton thinks his unranked team will make an impression quickly.

“When you look back even at the times we’ve won the ACC, ranked in the top 10 at the end of the season, those years we’ve never been preseason in the Top 25,” Hamilton said. “I’m expecting to have a really good year. Hopefully we’ll be a surprise team in the country.”


Florida State lost 54 games to injury in 2021-22, with five of the Seminoles’ top nine scorers forced to watch for large chunks of the ACC schedule. One early question is Jaylen Gainey, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Brown who was the Ivy League’s defensive player of the year in 2020 and ’22. Gainey suffered a preseason injury and could be out an extensive part of the season.


Hamilton was hired at Florida State in 2002 and turned 74 in August. At a time where some of the biggest names in college basketball have opted to retire, notably Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (now 75) and UNC’s Roy Williams (now 72), Hamilton embraces his role as a mentor and coach.

“I’m happy where I am, my family is happy and we’re expecting bigger and better things,” said Hamilton, whose teams are 78-42 since the start of the 2016-17 season. “Don’t ask me when I’m retiring. As long as I can come out of the locker room and not accidentally go sit on the other coach’s bench because I don’t know where I’m at, I’m going to hang in there.”


Green Jr. shot 6 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc in UCF’s win over Florida State on Dec. 19, 2020. The 6-foot-5 guard made 208 3-pointers in three seasons at UCF, making 38.8 shots from long range. The early impressions of Green Jr. at Florida State have been impressive: He shot 13 of 30 from 3-point range during a three-game exhibition tour in Canada this summer.


Florida State has won the last four ACC Sixth Man of the Year awards: Mfiondu Kabengele, Patrick Williams, Scottie Barnes and Cleveland. The 6-foot-7 Cleveland has tried to make newcomers feel more comfortable during preseason practices.

“Just making sure that everyone, the transfers and the incoming guys, that they have the information that they need to play within the system and to be comfortable,” Cleveland said.


Florida State will host preseason No. 1 North Carolina on Feb. 27 and No. 18 Virginia on Jan. 14. The Seminoles will travel to play at Duke on Dec. 31. They will also face five schools that received votes in the presason AP Top 25: Florida, Miami, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Purdue.

ACC Commisioner Jim Phillips: Time to expand NCAA’s Big Dance

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Plenty of people have called for NCAA Tournament expansion. Count ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips among them.

Phillips said at the ACC Tipoff that “it’s time to look at” expanding the field beyond the 68 teams currently invited to the Big Dance each March.

Phillips believes the NCAA’s best tournaments are the ones that feature the most schools. That’s part of why he’s hopeful of eventual expansion, not just for the men’s event but for all NCAA championships.

Increasing the field also brings rewards for those “schools that are spending a tremendous amount of resources in sports and not having a chance to access those championships,” he said.

Currently, just 68 of 358 men’s basketball programs qualify for the men’s NCAAs – 32 conference champions and 36 at-large teams picked by the selection committee. Phillips said the logistics of staging a bigger tournament need to be worked out.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has advocated for more teams in the field the past 30 years. “I’ve been knocked down every year I’ve brought it up,” said the 77-year-old Boeheim. “I stopped bringing it up. Everybody thought I was an idiot.”

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey projects adding three more First Four pods – one for each region – could work and take the field up to 80.

“Let’s throw three more Daytons in, regionalize it up and play it out, let some more kids get in there,” Brey said.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton wants to double the field – and double the experience for athletes who work hard all year for their moment in March. “Do you realize how it would be an opportunity for all these youngsters to participate in the NCAA Tournament?” he said. “It’s the greatest games in history.”


North Carolina’s Armando Bacot could’ve easily jumped to the NBA, especially after leading the Tar Heels to the NCAA championship game last season. Instead, the 6-foot-11 senior wanted another run to finish the job.

Bacot, a likely pick for ACC preseason player of the year, was among four Tar Heels who held off going pro in the wake of their 72-69 title-game loss to Kansas in the NCAA Tournament in April. North Carolina was up 40-25 at halftime before the Jayhawks’ rallied.

For Bacot, it was a difficult outcome that fueled his decision to return. He doesn’t spend much time thinking about the NBA, concentrating on improving his game and helping the Tar Heels win.

“Going through last year with our ups and downs,” Bacot said. “Our ups were really high and a lot of fun. Just being able to experience that for a full year was a no-brainer.”


Virginia Tech coach Mike Young led his Hokies to a surprise ACC Tournament title last March, defeating second-seeded Notre Dame in the quarterfinals, third-seeded North Carolina in the semis and top-seeded Duke, 82-67, for the school’s first-ever tournament crown.

That improved Young’s record to 6-0 in tournament finals. Young, beginning his fourth season at Virginia Tech, won all five Southern Conference championship games he reached during 16 seasons leading Wofford.

The secret? Don’t change anything. “We all know what’s at stake,” Young said. “Let’s go have a good time, lay our ears back and let it rip.”


Blue Devils coach Jon Scheyer said prize freshman Dariq Whitehead is progressing well about six weeks into recovery from a foot injury.

Whitehead is a 6-foot-7 forward from Newark, New Jersey, who was rated the country’s No. 2 prospect this past recruiting season.

Whitehead is entering the next phase of his recovery where he’s able to get out on the court more, Scheyer said. The first-year coach can’t yet say when Whitehead will be ready to play, “but he’s progressing in a great way and he’s working hard, and I know he’s anxious to be out here with these guys practicing every day.”


Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner is excited about – well, everything.

He thinks the ACC is deep and great. His players are smart and hardworking. And his school is a leader in the space industry.

“They found water on Mars from Georgia Tech,” said Pastner, bragging on 14 Tech grads who’ve been to space. “That’s what’s amazing about this school. It’s incredible.”

Pastner gushed that he thinks North Carolina should be ranked No. 1 nationally to start the season. He also would pick Virginia as the league’s best team. “I know it sounds crazy when I say this,” said Pastner, opening his seventh year with the Yellow Jackets.