This could've been labeled a trap game.
Fresh off its demolition of then-third-ranked North Carolina, Florida State welcomed the Maryland Terrapins to Tallahassee on Tuesday night. On Saturday, the ‘Noles will battle Duke in Durham.
Therefore, the Seminoles faced a test against the Terps, a test in which they needed mental toughness in order to prevail.
Prevail they did.
FSU defeated Maryland 84-70 and rode a strong second-half performance to secure its third consecutive victory -- a win that was much needed considering how difficult Saturday afternoon's matchup will be. Florida State's defense wasn't as good against the Terrapins as it has been lately, but its offensive execution was superb.
Florida State shot 47.5 percent from the floor and converted 20 of 23 free-throw attempts. The ‘Noles managed to limit their turnovers to just nine and did a nice job of converting the opposition's mistakes into easy transition baskets.
More importantly, the Seminoles are beginning to find the kind of balance offensively that was expected coming into the season.
With so many potential scorers on the floor, it's essential for the ‘Noles to get everyone involved on the offensive end to be successful. Having eclipsed the 80-point mark in their last two outings, they are starting to include everyone on the scoring end of the court.
"We are learning how to play within ourselves," said coach Leonard Hamilton. "[We're] moving the ball a little better, involving more people and cutting down the turnovers."
For most of the season, the turnovers have been a major problem. The Seminoles are averaging nearly 18 per game. Most of them have been unforced errors and a direct result of lazy passing and poor ball movement.
However, Tuesday proved to be much different. Florida State held the turnovers in check with quality spacing and smart passes. There were even some highlight-reel passes that included a full-court bounce pass from Luke Loucks and an alley-oop to Okaro White.
Cutting down on the turnovers has allowed FSU to get more shots and at the rim. The more shots the ‘Noles take, the more baskets the team has a chance to convert.
"Guys that are drivers are driving," Hamilton said. "Big guys are catching the ball and not forcing things. It allows us for high-percentage shots."
The "big guy" that showed the most explosiveness vs. the Terps was Bernard James. The 6-10 senior established himself from the beginning, collecting rebounds and slamming home two dunks in the early moments that set the tone for the rest of the game. James finished the contest with 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks. If he can continue to dominate the paint, Florida State will have a much-needed presence down low.
"He was great," said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. "He looked like a man among boys, and you can probably say he is a man among boys out there."
Maryland did hold senior guard Deividas Dulkys to just six points, and it was clear the native of Lithuania was a priority following his career-high 32 against North Carolina this past Saturday.
Nonetheless, Dulkys' points came on consecutive 3-pointers in the second half that pushed a close game into a double-digit Seminoles advantage. The Terrapins didn't have an answer, and FSU continued to build on its lead.
Florida State will now face its toughest challenge of the season when it travels to Duke on Saturday.
That being said, the Seminoles are beginning to prove they are among the best in the ACC. The defense statistically has been elite, but if the offense can continue to make positive strides, then FSU is in for a promising second half of the season.
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
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