Florida State starts fast, cruises past Alabama State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It was a long, hot summer for Florida State's Cierra Bravard.

The burly, 6-foot-4 junior stayed in Florida to concentrate on her conditioning instead of going back home to Ohio. It appears to have paid off.

Bravard scored 15 points and grabbed a career-best 17 rebounds and highly touted freshman Natasha Howard scored 20 points despite sitting out most of the first half in foul trouble as the Seminoles (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No.18 AP) trounced Alabama State 89-39 on Friday in the season opener for both schools.

"It was hard, a lot of hard work," said Bravard, who says she dropped 20 pounds. "I want to be able to play more minutes. The hard work makes me better and that's more fun."

The Seminoles, coming off a school-best 29-6 record last season, raced to an 18-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. They built their advantage to 64-20 early in the second half with another 18-0 run as Alabama State went scoreless for 6:17 after coming out of the locker room.

"They're loaded," Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. "They were just too good, too big. [Howard] is big-time. Big and athletic."

Bravard already had her double-double by halftime with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

"I've never seen her rebound like that," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. "She could've played 30, 35 minutes. I'd never have believed it."

Alexa Deluzio added 16 points for Florida State. Tanika Jackson led Alabama State with 13 points.

"Alabama State was overmatched and really scrappy as a result," Semrau said.

Howard, a former Ms. Ohio Basketball during her Toledo prep career, made 8-of-10 shots from the floor but played just five minutes in the first half because of two early fouls.

Florida State, which has shared the last two regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference titles, was too much for overmatched Alabama State, a Southwestern Athletic Conference member that finished 13-17 a season ago.

The Seminoles' biggest lead came with 2:12 left at 87-31. They shot 46.7 percent while the Hornets made only 12-of-60 shots for 20 percent in their season opener against the taller Seminoles.

Led by Bravard, Florida State dominated on the boards by a 59-40 margin. The Hornets managed only two assists and committed 29 turnovers.

Florida State led by 28 points on two occasions in the first half and began the second half on a 20-1 run.

Alabama State plays its home opener Tuesday against the University of Mobile, while Florida State's schedule quickly gets tougher with a Monday date at Auburn.