GREENSBORO, N.C. – Florida State coach Sue Semrau knew there was no way her team was going to surprise No. 4 Louisville again, especially after upsetting the Cardinals on the road last month.
That made Saturday's win all the more special.
Nausia Woolfolk scored 16 points, Kiah Gillespie had 15 points and 16 rebounds and No. 22 Florida State beat top-seeded Cardinals 62-60 on Saturday to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game for only the second time in school history.
Nicki Ekhomu added 14 points for the Seminoles, whose only other appearance in the title game came in 2015 when they lost to top-seeded Notre Dame 71-58.
Of Louisville's four losses this season, two have come at the hands of Florida State (24-7). The Seminoles upended Louisville last month 67-59 behind 25 points and 13 rebounds from Gillespie.
“After going up there and pulling out a win, I knew they would come out with a lot of fire,” Semrau said. “They did, but we matched it. I'm proud of my seniors. They’re something else.”
Woolfolk said it was about “locking in.”
“It was harder for us today, just wanting to get to the championship,” Woolfork said. “It was lay your heart on the line and that's what we did. It wasn't about scouting, (just) leave it on the floor, forget everything and just play and that's what we did.”
Dana Evans had 16 points to lead Louisville (28-4), while Jazmine Jones added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“This stings, it hurts, nobody likes to lose," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We put a lot of time and effort into this and our goal was to come in here and be not only be conference champs but win the tournament.”
The game was tied at 30 at halftime when Gillespie began to exert herself in the paint with relentless effort on the glass while Woolfolk took advantage of her quick first step off the dribble to get to the basket, helping the Seminoles build a 48-43 lead.
But the Cardinals wouldn't quit.
Jones scored on the inside, then had a block at the other of the floor and added a putback on an offensive rebound to give Louisville the lead 50-48 with 4:47 left after Florida State endured a six-minute scoring drought to open the fourth quarter.
The lead changed hands seven times before Gillespie got undercut while fighting for an offensive rebound with 26 seconds to go. She stayed on the floor for several minutes holding her back but eventually got to her feet. She stayed in the game and sank both free throws, giving the Seminoles back the lead for good.
After a timeout, Louisville set up a play, but Kourtney Weber came up with the steal on a half-court inbounds pass. Ekhomu made both free throws to push the lead to three.
Evans answered with two free throws with 20 seconds left, cutting the lead to one.
Woolfork then added two free throws to increase the lead back to three with 17.8 seconds left before Jones's jumper with 9.8 seconds left cut it to one again.
Ekhomu made one of two free throws — Florida State's only miss from the line in nine attempts — with seven seconds left, giving the Cardinals one last chance. But Evans' runner was no good, and Jones couldn't get the offensive tip to fall, setting off a Florida State celebration.
Florida State: The Seminoles won despite not scoring in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. That meant relying on their defense to keep Louisville from taking control of the game. “Defense travels,” Semrau said. “Sometimes the ball doesn't go through the net. It's a lot easier to defend when you see that thing go through the net."
Louisville: The Cardinals probably weren't going to get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the loss raises some concerns moving forward. Despite having a size advantage, they were outrebounded 36-31. “You never want to lose. There is no question about that,” Walz said.
Florida State: Will look to capture the school's first ACC Tournament title on Sunday.
Louisville: Will wait to hear where they are seeded in the NCAA Tournament.