This team has a number of things to work on. That's how it goes with just about every team. Where you start out is not usually where you end up. And for this Seminole team there is a potential for a lot of upside. When and if that happens is anyone's guess.
In the mean time take the bad with the good the good in this case being a two game win streak albeit against poor competition. And really, Leonard Hamilton's pre-game scouting report described exactly how this game would go. The now 1-6 Warhawks were going to be a scrappy team that plays hard, executes well, but just doesn't shoot well usually fading down the stretch.
That's what pretty much happened Monday night.
ULM jumped out to a 16-9 lead. FSU fought its way back on the strength of a 17-4 run taking 37-27 half time lead. The Warhawks did not go away, closing the gap to six points twice primarily due to the three point shooting of Tampa native Trent Mackey (22 points, 6-12 from the arc).
With 6:42 remaining the Seminoles opened up a lead, 52-40, that was too much for ULM to overcome. Down the stretch both teams displayed a shooting touch not to be emulated by anyone. In the last 3:30 the two teams combined for a total of five points. Some of that as a result of FSU's defense, self inflicted errors such as ULM throwing the ball out of bounds coming out of a timeout, and FSU's own ineptitude on the break after stealing several Warhawk passes.
But in the end FSU prevailed. But it also showed there is still a lot of work to be done. Certainly with finals week, practice time was disrupted, but frankly I'm not sure that was a major factor in contributing to just 33% shooting, 19 turnovers against just 7 assists (four by Devon Booker), and a defense that struggled.
So what did we learn from this game?
We learned that the 'Noles can still win a game (even if it was an outmatched opponent) without Michael Snaer who warmed up but sat the bench the entire game. As usual the tight-lipped Hamilton would only say it was a discipline matter for now.
Overall, this is not a good shooting team. That has kind of been a pattern of Hamilton's teams for a few years anyway. But this one is an especially poor shooting team that has trouble with shots inside and out. They just to lack that certain fluidity shooters have.
Turnovers. Young team. Freshmen point guards. Turnovers have also been a hallmark aspect of Hamilton's teams even longer than the issues with shooting. Don't expect that to change as the season progresses. FSU will be among the "leaders" in that stat again this year. Much of last night's issues seem to deal with guards being confused with the morphing between zone and man defenses. And even more egregious was the dribbling the ball into the lane, getting stuck not knowing what to do with it, and having the ball stripped by multiple Warhawk defenders. And worse yet were teammates who failed to move to provide a passing outlet to the trapped man.
And then there was the defense. Now why the staff switched up the usual switching defense to one that was asked to fight over the screens and help the post hedges I do not know. It was quite a change from the normal scheme. Perhaps Hamilton was trying to simplify what with not having Snaer, Ian Miller (bone bruise), and Robert Gilchrist (groin) available for this game.
But aside from that, ULM constantly beat FSU's defense with the back door cut easily getting the ball to the rim far too many times. Making it even more interesting was that it looked like a triangle offense.
FSU simply has to get better at not letting the ball get inside. The biggest weakness of this team is in the post. It is just not performing well at this point. It is imperative the guys on the perimeter make it more difficult to work the ball inside. And that starts with shutting down passing lanes. Last night ULM dished out 15 assists even with the poor shooting the Warhawks had. That reflected the execution of their offense Hamilton was concerned about.
The Seminoles had seven blocked shots. A number of them were from behind. That is not something you want to rely on - letting the man with the ball get between you and the basket.
Fortunately Florida State controlled the boards as they should have, clearly having the height advantage, and turned the 23 Warhawk turnovers into 30 points.
That says FSU's transition offense seems to be the strength of this team. Half court is another story. It's a work in progress. With this squad though, it's going to be a lot of work.
Hamilton seems to think that team chemistry is a factor and with school out on Christmas break and a month long road trip, that will give his players more time to know one another. That process started this week with Monday's game and will continue Saturday when the Seminoles travel to Charlotte for a 2 PM tip off.