STOCKTON, Calif. – Ivey Slaughter jumped into the passing lane on Oregon State’s first possession of the second half and swiped the ball away, then drove the length of the floor in one of those timely defensive moments that has defined her final season at Florida State.
That momentum-changing steal was a big reason the third-seeded Seminoles rallied from way behind to advance into the Stockton Regional final, beating No. 2 seed Oregon State 66-53 on Saturday to set up an Elite Eight rematch of 2015 with top-seeded South Carolina.
The Gamecocks won that one by six points.
The slick-handed Slaughter, who doesn’t even consider herself the Seminoles’ best defender – “She definitely is,” Leticia Romero chimed in – started swiping to help Florida State discover its best defense from all angles, and the Seminoles methodically erased a daunting deficit.
“She really changed a lot of things,” said Romero, Florida State’s top scorer in the game with 18 points.
Slaughter finished with a career-high nine steals, a school record in the NCAA Tournament and also a top mark in the women’s regional round. Florida State had 16 steals total, and Slaughter also contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. She made 1 of 2 free throws with 3:41 left before Sydney Wiese missed yet another 3-point try on the other end during a tough day from deep, and Slaughter scored again to help extend her special senior season. She hopes it will end with the Seminoles reaching the program’s first Final Four.
Coach Sue Semrau had a quick reminder for her team, too.
“If we could convince them how good we are defensively, things could change,” she said.
ACC Player of the Year Shakayla Thomas notched her third straight double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Seminoles (28-6) used an 8-0 run to put the game away and will face top-seeded South Carolina (30-4) on Monday for a Final Four berth.
Wiese, the Beavers’ leading scorer, wound up with just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting and missed all 10 of her 3-point tries in her final collegiate game. Oregon State (31-5) missed a return trip to the Final Four.
Oregon State tied it at 46 with 6:55 to play, with Gabriella Hanson’s free throws capping a 9-0 run. Then Florida State responded once more.
First, Romero led the Seminoles back into the game, and then Slaughter was key in closing it out.
Florida State trailed by 17 late in the first quarter and 10 midway through the second.
“I was stunned that we were missing the shots that we were missing,” Semrau said.
The Seminoles stormed back with a big run spanning halftime– getting within 35-30 at the break before opening the third with a 16-2 burst to go ahead 46-37.
Wiese struggled to get clean looks and never got comfortable with her shot, while Oregon State was just 2 for 17 from long range and shot just 36.4 percent overall after a decorated senior class led the program to the past three Pac-12 regular season titles.
Kolbie Orum was the Beavers’ lone player to score in double figures with 12.
Oregon State was the only team in Stockton not to travel cross-country, and plenty of fans made the easy trip down the West Coast to Northern California.
These teams just missed each other last March at the Dallas Regional, where Florida State lost to Baylor in the Sweet 16 and the Beavers beat the Bears to reach their first Final Four ever.
“This game had so many stretches, for them, for us, and then finally for them,” Beavers coach Scott Rueck said. “The hot team wins in March, and they were that today.”
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