Noles Win Opener of NIT

After not receiving an invitation to the big dance, Florida State felt like they had something to prove. Finishing the season fifth in the ACC and an overall record of 19-9 earned Florida State a number two seed and a first round bye in this year's NIT tournament which was not exactly what Leonard Hamilton was exactly hoping for.

The (20-9) Seminoles found themselves against Butler, who was coming off of a tough 53-52 win over (20-13)Miami (Ohio) in the opening round on Tuesday night. After holding off a late rally by the Bulldogs, Florida State was able to hold on and win 67-63. While Jason Rich was the leading scorer in the game with a career high 22 points and eight defensive rebounds, Alexander Johnson was the star for the Seminoles.

"I saw a very determined, focused look in his eye that we are going to get this done," said FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton of Rich.

After leading for the entire game, FSU was behind for the first and only time after a three pointer by Avery Sheets gave Butler the lead 63-61 with 2:22 left. It was here when Alexander Johnson decided to take control. After hitting a free throw to pull the Seminoles within one, Johnson hit a jump-hook with 51 seconds left regain the lead 64-63.

The Bulldogs attempted to respond but when A.J. Graves missed a three pointer, Ralph Mims was able to grab the board before being fouled and then sent to the free throw line. When Mims missed the second free throw, the game was sealed after Johnson was able to get the rebound and a lay-up. This brought Johnson's total to 20 points and nine rebounds in the win for the Seminoles.

Brandon Polk was the leading scorer for the Bulldogs with 21 points and seven rebounds, but a stingy Florida State defense allowed him to only score five points in the second half. Problems arose for the Bulldogs from behind the arc as they shot 8-37 from the three point line and 33.8 percent for the game. For Butler Coach Todd Lickliter, the pressure from the guards of the Seminoles is what caused problems for the offense of the Bulldogs.

"We didn't get clean looks and when (we) did (we) were anxious," said Lickliter.

This is the fifth time in history that Florida State has played in the NIT tournament. Their most successful year came in 1997 when the Seminoles loss to Michigan State in the championship game. By defeating Butler, FSU improves its all time record to 8-4 including a 5-0 record in the opening game.

Now Florida State must look ahead to hosting South Carolina in a second round match up on Tuesday.

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