LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)Kiah Gillespie set the tone, and her teammates helped finish the job.
Gillespie scored 25 points to lead the No. 17 Florida State to a 67-59 upset over No. 5 Louisville on Thursday night. She scored nine of her points and grabbed 10 of her 13 rebounds in the first half.
“That’s the difference in her game,” Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. “When she rebounds, she’s really, really good.”
Nicki Ekhomu added 18 points for Florida State, which trailed for just 13 seconds. The Seminoles (19-4, 8-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended Louisville’s win streak at 13 games.
Florida State shot just 34.3% to lead 26-17 at halftime. The Seminoles outrebounded Louisville 29-16 in the first half, including 10 offensive boards. Louisville shot just 24.1% before the break.
In a physical, hard-fought contest, Gillespie said she made sure to keep her composure.
“I tend to get frustrated sometimes, but I didn’t do that tonight when some of the shots weren’t falling,” she said.
Gillespie made just 4 of 11 shots in the first half, but made 6 of 9 in the second.
Louisville (21-2, 10-1) trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but the Cardinals shot 58.3% in the third period and cut the deficit to just 42-40 on a Yacine Diop jumper just before the buzzer. A Kylee Shook putback tied the game 17 seconds into the fourth quarter, but the Seminoles scored the next 13 points to effectively put the game away.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz liked the fight his team showed, but he said defensive breakdowns early in the game and then during the decisive run were costly.
“If we could have gotten a stop and taken the lead, then all of a sudden, it’s like a little pressure comes off,” he said.
Dana Evans led Louisville with 18 points and eclipsed the 1,000-point scoring mark for her career. Bionca Dunham added 14 for the Cardinals, who shot a season-low 34.4% from the field.
Louisville was without starting guard Elizabeth Balogun Thursday. The sophomore is playing for the Nigerian women’s national team seeking a spot in this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She scored nine points in Nigeria’s 85-51 victory over Mozambique in the round-robin qualifier in Belgrade.
Balogun, the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 8.9 points per game, is Louisville’s second-best perimeter shooter, and her presence was missed as the Cardinals made just 3-of-16 shots from beyond the arc. However, Walz had no qualms about letting one of his starters go.
“There’s a great chance and opportunity for her to possibly be playing in Tokyo this summer,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
Qualifying play ends on Sunday. It’s possible Balogun, who scored in double figures in six of the first 10 ACC games, may be back and ready to play in Louisville’s game next Thursday at ACC-leading North Carolina State.
Louisville-Florida State was one of a dozen games scheduled this week featuring ranked opponents. If the Seminoles can win Sunday, they may have a chance for a nice bump in Monday’s poll. Louisville, one of two top five teams to fall this week, will likely stay in the top 10.
Florida State: The Seminoles shot just 38.1%, but Ekhomu and Gillespie helped the Seminoles earn their fifth win in six tries against ranked teams this season. It was their ninth win ever against a team ranked in the AP’s top five.
Louisville: Usually, the Cardinals are the bigger team. On Thursday, the Seminoles imposed their will against them. Louisville’s six points in the second quarter were a season-low, and the Cardinals couldn’t climb out of the hole in the second half.
Florida State returns home to play Virginia on Sunday afternoon.
Louisville begins a two-game stretch on the road with a Sunday game at Syracuse.
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