With a grin on his face, head coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game, "We're getting closer."
Given his team's second half performance on both ends of the floor against Tulsa it is easy to see why the head coach made that comment. Leading 36-33 at the half thanks to a buzzer beater three pointer from Devon Bookert, the Seminoles shot 57% from the floor, outscoring the Golden Hurricane by 16 points while holding Tulsa to just 37% over the the second twenty minutes leading to a 82-63 victory.
Hamilton earlier in the week said he was being patient with his defense It appears maybe that patience is paying off. And Hamilton's defense did it mostly without his three seven footers putting Okaro White in the five spot much of the time.
Had it not been for 11 three pointers by the Golden Hurricane, the margin likely would have been much greater. Pat Swilling scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half and when the FSU defense shut him down Scottie Harrelson scored all 17 of his points in the second half. Both doubled their scoring average with each sinking five threes.
It was just one of those games for the duo. Case in point was when Harrelson launched a three from the left wing and still made the shot even with two defenders in his face. But it was the FSU defense clamping down on the rest of Tulsa's team that was the difference in particular.
Certainly Tulsa (7-6) is no cream of the crop college basketball team. But Florida State has lost to lesser teams this season. Despite missing their first six shots, the Seminoles took the early lead, 13-8, only to eventually see Swilling knock in back to back threes giving Tulsa a 27-22 margin with 5:22 left in the half.
Bookert scored four straight points, the last two coming just before the buzzer right after FSU's defense had stuffed a point blank shot at the other end. The buzzer beater gave the 'Noles a 36-33 halftime lead.
Tulsa tied the game and subsequently took a one point lead, 41-40 just two minutes into the second period. But a 24-8 FSU run giving the Seminoles a 64-49 advantage (Snaer with the driving layup right past the defender plus the foul) with 8:48 remaining put enormous pressure on the Tulsa offense.
From that point, Tulsa's offense only mustered ten additional points. That led to mistakes i.e. a technical foul on Tulsa head coach Danny Manning putting Snaer at the line. Bookert immediately took advantage of the extra possession with a three pointer putting the 'Noles up 72-53.
Even with 6:14 left to play Tulsa did not appear to have the firepower to make a similar comeback they did in the previous game against Oral Roberts overcoming a 17-point deficit. Although, Harrelson did make it interesting with back-to-back three pointers.
Snaer was named the game's MVP finishing with 19 points, 12 in the second half to go along with six rebounds and four assists. It was Terrence Shannon though that had the career game with a double-double. Displaying touch on his jump shot to go along with his power around the basket. His 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting set a new career high for the junior. His 10 rebounds contributed to FSU out-rebounding Tulsa 44-32.
White added 12 points and Bookert was 4 of 4 to finish with 10 points. FSU harassed Tulsa ball carriers right from the start to cause 17 miscues by the Hurricane.
FSU improves to 8-4 and is currently riding a four game winning streak. Apparently the Seminoles like neutral site games as this was the fourth neutral site game for FSU, and their fourth win. The contest was part of a Orange Bowl Basketball Classic double header in Sunrise, Florida. It was the fourth appearance overall in the 19-year history of the event with the Seminoles winning its third game in the Classic (2005, 2008, 2012). The Seminoles get its first true road test of the season when it travels to Auburn for a 7 PM tip off against the Tigers on January 2nd.