How Kiah Gillespie helped Florida State pull one of the best road upsets of the season

Kiah Gillespie is averaging a team-high 15.8 points and 9.0 rebounds for No. 17 Florida State. David Allio/Icon Sportswire

What appeared to be a promising season for Florida State looked like it could be slipping away.

The Seminoles had lost to Boston College and then scored just 66 points against last-place Pittsburgh in the ACC. That capped a nine-game stretch in which Florida State went just 5-4. A trip to fifth-ranked Louisville didn't seem to be coming at a good time.

Kiah Gillespie helped make it the right time. Her 25-point, 13-rebound performance was the exact lift her team needed to pull the 67-59 upset on the road. Gillespie followed that up with 22 points and eight rebounds on Sunday against Virginia and is the espnW national player of the week.

With senior guard Nausia Woolfolk still struggling because of a sore ankle and offense at premium in the first half against the Cardinals, Gillespie became the most assertive player on the court, just like she has done so often against Florida State's best competition this season. The 6-foot-2 senior forward scored nine of the Seminoles' 26 first-half points, and her 10 rebounds in the opening half were a key to holding Louisville to a season-low 17 points.

Louisville -- which was playing without starting guard Elizabeth Balogun, who is playing for the Nigerian national team in Olympic qualifying -- climbed back into the game and tied the score at 42, but Gillespie scored the final five points in a decisive 13-0 run that propelled the Seminoles to their second straight win at the KFC Yum! Center (Florida State also upset then-No. 2 Louisville in 2018).

The win marked Florida State's fifth in six games against ranked teams this season, and it also snapped Louisville's 13-game winning streak and unbeaten run in the ACC.

"We talked about how we deserved to be here. We learned quickly that we have to come out and have an attitude," said Gillespie, who has 10 double-doubles this season. "We have to defend and rebound and talk and be a team all together."

Sunday's eight-point victory over Virginia was hardly a thing of beauty, but Gillespie made sure there was no letdown, like ones that plagued Florida State earlier in the season against Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Boston College. She scored 11 points in the first quarter and the Seminoles never trailed after the first minute.

The wins move the Seminoles to 9-4 and back to sole possession of third place in the ACC. Perhaps more importantly, Florida State is still alive to host first- and second-round NCAA tournament games, a possibility that would have all but disappeared without Gillespie's performance or these victories.

But she and her teammates know the job isn't done.

"We'll use this game to be happy and celebrate," Gillespie said after the Louisville win. "But we have to string games together in February. Celebrate, but get back in the gym and keep working hard."

Also considered: Kaila Charles, Maryland; Kathleen Doyle, Iowa; Becca Hittner, Drake; Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon; Rickea Jackson, Mississippi State; Keni Jo Lippe, Oral Roberts; Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA; Sara Rhine, Drake; Sam Simons, St. Mary's; Chante Stonewall, DePaul

Previous winners: Naz Hillmon, Michigan (Feb. 3); Tyasha Harris, South Carolina (Jan. 27); Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon (Jan. 20); Ja'Tavia Tapley, Arizona State (Jan. 13); Rhyne Howard, Kentucky (Jan. 6); Kaila Charles, Maryland (Dec. 30); Charli Collier, Texas (Dec. 23); Ashley Joens, Iowa State (Dec. 16); Megan Walker, UConn (Dec. 9); Dana Evans, Louisville (Dec. 2); Jaelyn Brown, Cal (Nov. 25); Aari McDonald, Arizona (Nov. 18); Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon (Nov. 11)