One night after starting slow before using a strong second half to defeat McNeese State, the Seminoles (2-0) used a similar formula for victory against Illinois State (0-2), beating the Redbirds 73-59 in the second day of the Colonial Classic.
This time it wasn't as easy as the night before when the 'Noles rolled to victory as Illinois State made a strong push late. Led by guard Dominitrix Johnson, the Redbirds began chipping away at an FSU lead that had increased to 61-42 midway through the second period.
"We got off to another slow start tonight," FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We seemed to struggle. We got a couple of our stars in foul trouble but I thought we did a good job of keeping our composure after digging a hole for ourselves."
Johnson hit three of his seven 3-pointers in a three-minute span in the second half but Illinois State would never come closer than nine points. Johnson finished the game with 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting including 7-of-15 from behind the arc.
"We had what we considered our best defender on him. Jerel (Allen) is our best defender," Hamilton said. "He was on the money when he got clean looks. You've got to give them credit for finding a way to get him the ball."
"What I love about (Johnson) is that he keeps playing," ISU Coach Porter Moser said. "He had 32 and led us in assists and led us in steals. He plays hard and that's what I love about the kid."
Junior forward Al Thornton paced the Seminoles with a team-high 20 points despite foul trouble early in the game. The Perry, Ga. native's emphatic dunk with under two minutes to play officially closed the door on any chance the Redbirds may have had of closing the gap any further.
"His intangible of his work ethic … he's a beast," Moser said. "He's definitely a load to think about."
Guard Isaiah Swann gave Moser and the Redbirds fits also, scoring 14 points for the Seminoles and hitting 3-of-6 from 3-point range. But he also gave the FSU coaching staff some headaches of their own as he committed five of the team's 27 turnovers.
In fact, six Seminoles had at least three turnovers or more including all five starters.
"Right now we are still a team that is playing impatient," Hamilton said.
FSU shot 44.4 percent from the field in the game's first 20 minutes and had 14 turnovers. They led 31-24 at the halftime break before scoring 42 in a second half that saw them shoot 61.5 percent. The Seminoles finished the game shooting 52.8 percent.
Florida State didn't get its first lead until 9:18 remaining in the first half when guard Ralph Mims put FSU on top 17-16 with a layup following an offensive rebound.
Thornton had just two points in seven minutes of play after committing two turnovers and two fouls in that period. Swann was relegated to the bench after turning the ball over three times early in the game.
Post players Uche Echefu and Ryan Reid both battled with foul trouble, too, as each had two fouls apiece.
"The type of team that we have, the coaches have instilled in us that we have to play as a team when other guys can't play," guard Ralph Mims said.
Illinois State led by as many as 10 points when they jumped out to an 11-1 lead to start the game.
FSU returns to the court for the third game in as many nights as the Colonial Classic continues Tuesday. The Seminoles face 2-0 Southern Methodist University at 7:30 p.m. from the Doanld L. Tucker Center.
'Noles down Redbirds 73-59, move to 2-0
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