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Essence Cody leads Alabama to 82-74 win over Seminoles in women's NCAA tournament

Ta'Niya Latson led Florida State with 25 points, 5 assists
Alabama Crimson Tide forward Essence Cody and Florida State Seminoles forward Makayla Timpson battle for rebound in second half of women's NCAA tournament game, March 22, 2024
Posted at 7:56 AM, Mar 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-23 07:56:41-04

AUSTIN, Texas — Freshman Essence Cody had season highs with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and No. 8 seed Alabama defeated No. 9 Florida State 82-74 on Friday night in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament.

Working inside, the 6-foot-4 Cody more than doubled her average of eight points a game. She also blocked four shots. Her layup on a pick-and-roll gave Alabama (24-9) a 74-69 lead with 2:33 left.

"Essence has grown up a lot this year,” Alabama guard Loyal McQueen said. "You know, we need her to be aggressive every single night. We need her to be on the boards every night in order for us to beat big-time teams."

O'Mariah Gordon quickly countered Cody's basket with a 3-pointer for Florida State (23-11), but Aaliyah Nye — who finished with 18 points — made a 3 of her own for Alabama with 1:21 remaining.

Alabama, which shot 5 of 6 from the foul line in the final 44 seconds, will face No. 1 seed Texas on Sunday.

Ta'Niya Latson led Florida State (23-11) with 25 points and five assists. Makayla Timpson had 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

Florida State Seminoles guard Ta'Niya Latson looks to shoot past Alabama Crimson Tide center JeAnna Cunningham in first half of women's NCAA tournament game, March 22, 2024
Florida State guard Ta'Niya Latson looks to shoot past Alabama center JeAnna Cunningham during the first half of a first-round women's NCAA tournament game, Friday, March 22, 2024, in Austin, Texas.

Alabama played without its third-leading scorer, Jessica Timmons, a starting guard who had a season-ending knee injury during the Southeastern Conference Tournament. She averaged 11.2 points a game. Karly Weathers, her replacement, had 18 points and five assists. Weathers averaged 22 minutes, sixth most on the team, and 4.7 points as a sub this season.

"I have so much confidence in Karly, and she’s played starter minutes for us all season," Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. "She just makes winning plays."

Cody had 10 points and five rebounds in the third quarter as Alabama outscored Florida State 23-11 to take a 63-51 lead.

Latson and Timpson scored nine each in the fourth quarter, leading a comeback for Florida State. But Timpson missed a shot inside with 1:02 remaining that could have left the Seminoles trailing by three points. Cody grabbed the rebound, and McQueen (13 points, six assists) started the procession to the free-throw line, making one of two.

"We've had plenty of games like that where we were right there and couldn't get it done," Latson, a sophomore, said. "Knowing how to close out games, start to finish, that's going to be our focus next year."