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USF/FSU NCAA stories involve Courtney Williams

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The second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament continues on Monday with eight games set to decide the final qualifiers for the Sweet 16. Two of those games feature South Florida and Florida State with each having an opportunity to reach the Sweet 16, but must win on the road to do so.

No. 5 seed Florida State is in College Station, Texas, to take on fourth-seeded Texas A&M on the their home floor. The Seminoles advanced with a 72-55 win on Friday against Middle Tennessee State. The Aggies dispatched 13th-seeded Missouri State, 74-65 on Friday.

Florida State is attempting to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth time. Coach Sue Semrau led her team to that high level in 2007, 2010 and 2015. In the latter two years, Florida State made it to the Elite 8.

Texas A&M is led by Gary Blair, who took the helm in 2003. His Aggies won the NCAA Championship in 2011.

There is precedent for winning on the road to advance. In 2007, the Seminoles defeated Stanford 68-61 in Stanford, California, to qualify for the West Regional in Fresno, California.

While playing on the road is a disadvantage, the Aggies will be at a disadvantage of their own by playing without their second-leading scorer, Courtney Williams. The senior guard, who averages 12.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, was suspended for “violating team policy.”

“I think they’re different defensively without her,” Semrau said. “She’s really savvy. She’s so long and smart and obviously I think Chelsea Jennings has done a great job stepping up as well as their other guards.”

The Aggies do have Anriel Howard, who set an NCAA Tournament record with 27 rebounds in their victory over Missouri State on Friday. Jennings scored 15 points.

Florida State will look to several players to earn a victory. Shakayla Thomas, Leticia Romero, Adut Bulgak, and Brittany Brown all average scoring in double figures.

Game time is 6:30 p.m.

The South Florida Lady Bulls also face a road game in order to advance to the Sweet 16. Monday night they’re in Pauley Pavilion to take on the UCLA Bruins.

The 6th-seeded Bulls earned the right to face the 3rd-seeded Bruins with a 48-45 win over Colorado State on Friday. Unlike the FSU game, Courtney Williams will play a major role in this game.

USF’s Williams set a few records in Friday night’s game. Her 31 points is a USF record for an NCAA Tournament game. She set an NCAA record when her point total represented 65 percent of the team’s scoring.

Williams leads the team in scoring with 22.2 points per game, while Kitija Laksa averages 12.6. UCLA is led by Jordin Canada, who averages 15.9 points per game, Nirra Fields with 15.7, and Monique Billings with 12.5 points per game.

The Bruins led the nation by playing 24 games against teams ranked in the RPI Top 100. They went 16-8 in those games.

UCLA is coached by Cori Close, who spent seven seasons as an assistant at Florida State from 2004-2011. She has led the Bruins to a 25-8 record and a No. 12 poll ranking this year.

Bulls Coach Jose Fernandez, in his 15th season, has led USF to the NCAA Tournament four times. The 20th ranked Bulls (24-9) are looking for their first-ever trip to the Sweet 16.

Game time is 9 p.m. EDT.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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