Romero breaks out of slump at right time for Florida State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Leticia Romero has been one of Florida State’s top players during her three seasons with the team. When it comes to NCAA Tournament time, she has been able to turn it up another level.

The 5-foot-8 point guard from Las Palmas, Spain, has scored in double figures in all nine tournament games she has played for the third-seeded Seminoles.

Going into Saturday’s Sweet 16 matchup against No. 2 seed Oregon State in Stockton, California, Romero’s is averaging 14.4 points in NCAA play, which is above her career average of 11.7 points.

“I try to play every game the same but I feel like when it comes to tournament time I get more focused and aggressive,” Romero said.

Romero was leading the team in scoring for most of the season until hitting a slump where she averaged just 6.7 points and hit just 42.9 percent from the field during a six-game stretch in late January and most of February.

Over the past five games, including two in the NCAA Tournament, she is averaging 13.2 points and made 23 of 47 from the field.

Romero said the thing she has been most pleased about with her game this season has been shooting from the perimeter. She leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in 3-point percentage (51.9 percent) after shooting 44.8 percent the last two seasons. Her 55 3-pointer this season also nearly match the 56 she made the last two years combined.

“It’s good to see the work is showing,” Romero said. “I take a lot of pride in my shot selection. You see players that score a lot of points but they take a lot of shots. I try to take the best option and have a balance between when I have to score and give it up.”

Romero and Florida State are in the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, which is the first time that has happened in program history. Romero was part of the team that reached the Elite Eight two years ago when they lost to South Carolina. If the Seminoles (27-6) can beat the Beavers, they would face the winner of top-seeded South Carolina and No. 12 seed Quinnipiac on Monday.

Coach Sue Semrau said having five seniors, including Romero, should be one of her team’s strengths this time around.

“They remember all the preparation from past years and want to seize the moment. They know now it is more important than ever to take one game at a time,” Semrau said.

Oregon State (31-4) reached the Women’s Final Four last season, coming out of the same region as Florida State. The Beavers have a size advantage with all five players in their starting lineup 5-10 or taller.

It should be a good matchup of 3-pointer shooters. Oregon State’s Sydney Wiese, who is averaging 15.4 points per game, leads Division I active players from beyond the arc with 374 made in her career.

“They’re bigger but we have to use our speed,” Romero said. “They want to keep the game in the 50s so that makes me feel good because we know we can score.

As long as we are focused on defense we can give them trouble.”

As part of Spain’s silver-medal team at the Rio Games, Romero is the first player since 1988 to win an Olympic medal and return to college competition the following season. She is expected to be selected in the WNBA draft but has not decided on her future.

“For me the national team is a priority so right now I don’t know since both play in the summer. Right now it’s a matter of balancing,” she said.

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