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FSU circles back to its first

Natasha Howard and Florida State will try to pound the ball inside against a smaller Iowa State lineup today.

Associated Press

Natasha Howard and Florida State will try to pound the ball inside against a smaller Iowa State lineup today.

Turns out, Ames, Iowa, is a special place to Florida State women's basketball coach Sue Semrau.

In 2001 she brought her first NCAA team to Hilton Coliseum, where it lost to Iowa State in the second round. Nine NCAA appearances have followed, including an Elite Eight in 2010.

Now Semrau returns with her 10th-seeded Seminoles (20-11) to play the seventh-seeded Cyclones (20-10) at 4 p.m. today (ESPN2) as the NCAA Tournament gets under way.

"You see things go full circle," Semrau said Friday. "I remember the first game we played Tulane and just the joy that came from being in this environment at the NCAA Tournament. It really got things rolling for Florida State. There is a satisfaction to where we've come from 13 years later."

The Seminoles come in with a size advantage, boasting seven players on the roster 6 feet or taller. Florida State would love to feed 6-3 forward Natasha Howard in the post.

All-Big 12 forward Hallie Christofferson is the only starter over 6 feet, so the Cyclones are more of an outside shooting team, averaging nine 3-pointers a game.

"Since October, we haven't gotten any taller, so we've been playing undersized all season, and we've gotten quality wins playing like that," Cyclones guard Brynn Williamson said.

Last SHOT for Irish? After three straight trips to the Final Four, two of which ended one win short of a national title, Notre Dame's three senior starters are down to their last chance.

If there's any extra pressure this time around, the Fighting Irish are embracing it.

"I think it makes it that much more fun to know that this is kind of our last shot," forward Natalie Achonwa said. "I wouldn't say pressure, but I would say excitement."

No. 1 seed Notre Dame starts its title quest today against 16th-seeded Robert Morris.

Notre Dame has one national title, in 2001, but lost in the title game in 2011 and 2012, and last year it was knocked out in the semifinals by Connecticut. The Irish (32-0) and UConn (34-0) are both unbeaten this year.

Vols' run: Tennessee has won all 52 NCAA Tournament games it has played on its home floor in Knoxville, a streak the top-seeded Vols (27-5) will try to extend today when they host No. 16 Northwestern State (21-12).

But at least one person from Northwestern State knows what it's like to beat the Vols at home. Co-coach Brooke Stoehr played for a Louisiana Tech team that won 69-64 on Nov. 14, 1999, to end the Vols' 41-game home streak. Stoehr, known as Brooke Lassiter at the time, said she has told her team about that game.

"What I didn't tell them was that there were about five WNBA players on that team," Stoehr said. "They didn't need to hear that."

Not a reach, Mr. President: President Barack Obama is predicting a repeat title for Connecticut, picking the top-seeded Huskies to beat Notre Dame in an April 8 final. Stanford and Louisville round out his Final Four bracket.

USF advances in WNIT: Sophomore Alisia Jenkins led USF with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and the host Bulls moved on to the second round of the WNIT with a 56-50 win over North Carolina A&T. USF (20-12) hosts Stetson at 2 p.m. Sunday.

FSU circles back to its first 03/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 11:23pm]
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