'Noles start year with win, beat MSU 85-65

It took them a full half of play to find a rhythm, but the Florida State basketball team kicked off the 2006-07 season with a bang Sunday night defeating McNeese State 85-65.

The Seminoles struggled early on and trailed for most of the game's first 20 minutes. They led 36-35 at the break on 40 percent shooting. FSU followed that up with a 49-point outburst in the second half thanks in large part to higher percentage shots on improved dribble penetration.

"We came out in the second half and did a little bit better," Hamilton said. "We are still a work in progress … we have a long way to go."

Offensively, All-America candidate Al Thornton led the way for the Seminoles as the Perry, Ga. native recorded a team-high 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He added seven rebounds and a block despite a constant double team all night long.

Helping him was fellow starting forward Uche Echefu, who nabbed 14 points and four rebounds. Echefu also helped spark the second half run by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers early after the halftime break.

"We need him to play that type of role for us," Hamilton said. "I've said all along that we are going to be a little unconventional. If we are going to be a team that can make things happen for ourselves he has to be a center that can shoot jump shots. He has to be able to space the floor and get away from the basket and open up more opportunities for our players to drive and for Al (Thornton) inside."

Guards Toney Douglas and Jason Rich were the other Garnet and Gold players to score in double figures as both registered 12 points apiece. They both had three assists each and a steal apiece, as well.

Senior Jerel Allen and junior Ralph Mims posted 9 and 8 points, respectively, off the bench.

Florida State turned the all over 12 times compared to 17 by that of McNeese State. FSU won rebound battle 35-33 and the points in the paint contest 36-34.

The Seminoles play again tonight (Monday) in the second game of the Colonial Classic against Illinois State. The Tribe then plays again Tuesday.

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