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Smackdown: Romero, Brown tag-team during Sunshine State shootout

In-state rivals Florida State and Florida hit the court Thursday ready to claim bragging rights. Unfortunately for the Gators, they couldn’t capitalize when the door was open as the Seminoles gained momentum and took the victory home.

NCAA Womens Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Florida State vs Miami Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Tallahassee, FL — A newfound tension lingered in the air at Doak Campbell Stadium as the #7 Florida State Seminoles hosted the #23 Florida Gators.

For the first time in 76 meetings, both teams were ranked entering Thursday's match-up.

Fueled by collaborative hustle on the boards and on defense, Florida State snatched its eighth victory in a row to send the Gators packing, 83-58.

Initially, a speedy Florida defense presented itself as a hefty threat to the Seminoles, whose shooting campaign was dismal early on. But the Seminoles channeled its energy elsewhere, overpowering Florida to win the battle of the boards 43-35 with a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points.

Shakayla Thomas contributed outstanding effort on both ends, crippling Florida’s offense and adding 16 points to the board overall. Ivey Slaughter, well, slaughtered, earning a double-double in the first half alone, with 13 points and 10 rebounds overall.

The rivalry game hit especially close-to-home for Florida native Brittany Brown, who gave a knock-out performance after a shaky start- finishing with 13 points and seven assists.

Per usual, senior Ronni Williams was the ace for Florida, leading her squad with 20 points overall, forcing the issue on offense when no one else would step up to the plate.

Her discretion on the court faltered, however, when she swiped at a shooting guard with just seconds left in the first half to ask for her third personal foul. After an uncharacteristically mediocre first half, Brown righted her wrongs with a dynamite 15-foot buzzer-beater to put the Seminoles up by 10 entering the half.

A whistle seemed to interrupt almost every play in the second half, relocating the action to the free throw line, where both teams struggled to get the ball in the net, especially on Florida’s end.

Things got particularly physical in the third quarter, when both teams were rendered scoreless for over two minutes and took to the floor to battle it out. Florida State tallied eight personal fouls by the middle of the third quarter, in contrast to Florida’s three.

A curious plot twist arose in the third period when a scuffle between Imani Wright and Delicia Washington resulted in overlapping foul calls on Wright. Both a personal and a technical foul offered Florida four free throws and a possession. The window of opportunity was there, but the Gators failed to capitalize on it. Florida missed 3 of 4 shots at the line with no conversion- botching what could’ve been a heroic return.

While the Gators continued to flounder on offense, the Seminoles found their groove.

Fortified by a soaring ‘Hail Mary’ assist from Brown, veteran Leticia Romero took Florida State to their largest lead of the game at 57-43 entering the final 10 minutes of play.

Boasting top honors in the Seminole record book for steals, Brown stayed true to her reputation as a defensive juggernaut, getting a hand on the ball whenever she could, earning key possessions for her team and a steal count of six on the night.

It was smooth-sailing for the Seminoles from then-on-out, who shot lights-out in the fourth quarter to ease across the finish line by 25-points, leaving the #23-ranked Gators limping behind.

Even Romero, the stoic Spaniard, couldn’t help but unleash a passionate fist pump after drilling a fourth quarter jumper from the corner to initiate a 24-4 Seminole run.

Four of five Florida starters finished with double-digits, including Romero, who racked up 21 points, six rebounds, and four assists to round out a show-stopping game.