Alabama forward Essence Cody, left, and Florida State forward Makayla...

Alabama forward Essence Cody, left, and Florida State forward Makayla Timpson, right, battle for a rebound during the second half of a first-round college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, Friday, March 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Eric Gay

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.

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.

Alabama forward Essence Cody (21) and Florida State guard Amaya...

Alabama forward Essence Cody (21) and Florida State guard Amaya Bonner (24) reach for a rebound during the second half of a first-round college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, Friday, March 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Eric Gay

“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.”

Alabama guarda Sarah Ashlee Barker (3) and Karly Weathers (22)...

Alabama guarda Sarah Ashlee Barker (3) and Karly Weathers (22) celebrate after their win over Florida State in a first-round college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, Friday, March 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Eric Gay

BAILING OUT A TEAMMATE

Alabama overcame a bad night from Sara Ashlee Barker, a first-team All-Southeastern Conference player who averaged 17.2 points and 6.4 rebounds game. She had six points, four rebounds and six turnovers in 11 foul-plagued minutes. She fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.

“We needed to pick her up,” said Nye, who made second-team All-SEC. “Everyone came in and did their job.”

RECORD SETTER

Timpson, a junior, set Florida State single-season records Friday for double-doubles (18), blocked shots (87) and rebounds (341).

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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