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Last-second defensive stand preserves senior night victory for No. 24 FSU

The Seminoles almost ran away with a comfortable win over Maryland and in the end still managed to avenge their Jan. 6 loss in College Park. Meanwhile, the fate of the Terps was more or less in the hands of red hot Katie Rutan, who willed them back into contention.

Leonor Rodriguez and company just barely snuck past the Terps.
Leonor Rodriguez and company just barely snuck past the Terps.

No. 24 Florida State (21-7, 11-6 ACC) forced No. 9 Maryland (22-6, 13-4 ACC) into a less than ideal last-second shot and held on for a 72-71 win Thursday night at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

Terrapin freshman center Malina Howard, who is a good shooter from pretty much anywhere on the floor, took a contested mid-range shot that never had a chance and FSU escaped with a victory on their senior night despite a spirited comeback by Maryland.

The Seminoles led, 64-47, with 4:31 remaining, before the Terps went on a 9-0 run to surprisingly get back in the game and set themselves up to make it a nail-biter in the final three minutes.

Alyssa Thomas scored on a shot that dramatically rolled around on the rim before going down with 28 seconds left and added an and one free throw to make the score, 69-68, FSU.

Florida State guard Morgan Toles then made two free throws at 24 seconds remaining to give her team a three-point lead.

That set the stage for Chloe Pavlech, who, despite having a quiet night for most of the game, hit two threes in the final three minutes, the second of which tied the score at 71 with 11 seconds remaining.

It seemed like Maryland's comeback was complete and that they were headed for overtime, but an Alexa Deluzio free throw followed by Malina Howard's miss resulted in a heartbreaking loss for the Terps.

Katie Rutan was the game's high scorer with 24 points, including a 6 for 10 effort from beyond the arc. Rutan has been threatening to go off like that this whole season, but never since her Xavier days had she scored 20-plus points or made more than four threes in a game. Both the 24 points and 6 triples were one off her career highs.

Florida State was led by seniors Chelsea Davis, Leonor Rodriguez and Alexa Deluzio with 19, 16 and 14 points respectively. Junior Natasha Howard notched 11 points and eight boards.

Both Florida State and Maryland will wrap up ACC regular season play on Sunday. The Seminoles finish with a game at Virginia at 1 p.m, while the Terps will head home to host Wake Forest at 2 p.m.