While some of us may have put ourselves into a turkey coma Thursday evening, the Florida State Seminoles were busy feasting on some Minutemen.
And feast they did.
The 20th-ranked Seminoles spent Thanksgiving afternoon in the Bahamas on Paradise Island participating in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and defeated Massachusetts in the opener 73-53. Once again, scoring by committee led FSU to its fifth consecutive victory to open the season.
Guard Michael Snaer led the way with 18 points. Luke Loucks and Okaro White threw in 12 and 11, respectively. In addition, White added 11 rebounds to secure his first double-double of the young season. A total of 10 players scored for the ‘Noles.
Despite the impressive distribution of scoring over the first five games, FSU's success has been based more on its defensive performance.
The defense was stellar once again Thursday.
Florida State held UMass to only 28-percent shooting and just 9 percent from 3-point range. The Seminoles' last two opponents have shot a combined 2 of 47 from beyond the arc.
The Seminoles have hung their hats on defensive intensity since the Leonard Hamilton era began in Tallahassee, and that surely won't change this season. Defense was the main reason that the ‘Noles managed to advance as far as the Sweet Sixteen last year. They will need more of the same in order to make a similar run this year.
Last season, the Seminoles were ranked as the top defensive team in the country in terms of field-goal percentage allowed. To this point, they have received much of the same production. Entering Thursday, the ‘Noles were holding opponents to 56 points per game and 33-percent shooting. Both of those numbers will dip slightly following their latest victory.
Much of FSU's success on defense stems from its intensity level on that end of the court. There is a different mindset the ‘Noles have that many teams fail to ever reach. The mindset is that defense really can win championships, and there is a commitment to maintaining defensive pressure every time the team takes the court.
The scary part is that FSU hasn't reached it's potential on the defensive end at this point of the season. There have been moments in every contest this year when the defense has dropped off a bit and the ‘Noles allowed teams to quietly sneak back into some games that could've been put away earlier.
However, there's no need to nitpick on some of those moments, and as the season progresses those lapses are sure to decrease. Florida State is entering a part of its schedule prior to ACC play when it faces some of last year's NCAA tournament participants, so those moments will have to decrease if the Seminoles are serious about contending for a conference title with elite programs such as Duke and North Carolina.
Many consider FSU to be narrowing the gap with those annual powerhouses. In order for that to continue, the execution on D will have to maintain its superior status.
Being one of the best defensive teams in the country over the last several seasons, there's no reason to believe that won't continue to be the case.
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
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