The Seminoles fell to Team Nike 87-84 in double overtime Sunday at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center before a small but vocal crowd. Hamilton's team played hard and was actually fun to watch at times. Hamilton said he saw some positive progress but quickly added his program has a long way to go.
"Our intentions were to treat this game like a practice, to try to get a look at some guys and give them a chance to get into the heat of the battle so we could evaluate them," Hamilton said. "I can say there were times when I thought we rose to the occasion and executed what we intended to execute. And there were times when we bogged down. We showed that we are a little inexperienced and we still have a ways to go."
FSU's perimeter defense was scorched by former Marquette guard Cordell Henry (28 points) and former Notre Dame standout David Graves (21 points). Henry was a second-team all-conference selection last year in Conference USA and Graves was Notre Dame's third-leading scorer last year, notching 20 points against Duke in the NCAA Tournament.
Team Nike also shot 51.7 percent for the game (31 of 60), including 14 of 22 from beyond the arc.
"We helped off like we normally work on in practice every day, trying to stop the dribbler and keep the ball out of the red zone," Hamilton said. "So what did they do? They kicked the ball out and knocked down threes. Now, when we're a little more crisp and playing our kind of defense, we'll make those adjustments by playing no-catch on the dribble drive on the strong side. But we're a long ways away from being close to where we need to be to be competitive this year. But I was encouraged."
Other encouraging signs included the inspired play of junior-college transfer Tim Pickett, who led all scorers with 29 points and had seven 3-pointers. While Pickett forced a handful of shots (9 of 19) and has a quick trigger finger, he did show that he could be a force this year for the Seminoles.
Anthony Richardson scored 14 points, 12 in the second half, and Andrew Wilson, who missed last season with a knee injury, added 10 points. Point guards Nate Johnson and Todd Galloway had just two turnovers, while Johnson added seven assists.
FSU's interior play struggled at times, as Mike Mathews, Trevor Harvey and Adam Waleskowski combined for 13 points and seven rebounds. Harvey was the most effective, finishing with nine points and five boards. FSU was outrebounded 39-30, 26-17 on the defensive end.
STRETCH RUN: Because of their longest football season, the Seminoles (7-3) have a chance to win 10 games. The surest win appears Saturday, when North Carolina (2-8), losers of six consecutive games, limp into Tallahassee for Florida State's homecoming. After that, it's a trip to North Carolina State, which suddenly is out of the Atlantic Coast Conference race, followed by the annual showdown against Florida in Tallahassee.
"You look at all three of those teams.... they all beat us last year," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "We're very aware of that. We owe them something. That's huge for motivation. Every game is payback."
The Seminoles could clinch the ACC title Saturday if they beat North Carolina and Maryland loses at Clemson. Should that happen, Florida State would return to the major bowl scene by automatically qualifying for a berth in the Bowl Championship Series, likely the Orange or Sugar Bowl
FSU Coach Bobby Bowden just wants to grasp more wins, no matter how they occur. He doesn't mind how his team won the past two games, struggling for four quarters to beat unranked Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.
"Wins are so good, and you take 'em any way you can," he said. "All you got to do is look around the country. Look at what happened to Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, and what happened to Notre Dame against Boston College, and nearly happened against Navy. I don't mind how we win. And if we were to win out, I think you'd look back on that Louisville game where you lost in overtime, or the Miami game when you missed a kick, or the way you lost to Notre Dame. You would have taken any kind of win in those games."
COMING TOGETHER: Cornerback Stanford Samuels, who had two interceptions in Saturday's win at Tech, including a touchdown return, still believes the Seminoles are one of the country's best teams.
"We've sold ourselves short; this is a national championship- caliber team," said cornerback Stanford Samuels, whose two interceptions -- one for an 82-yard touchdown, the other with 17 seconds left -- were pivotal in the Seminoles' 21-13 victory Saturday against Georgia Tech. "But there's nothing we can do now," Samuels said. "Our team has continued to grow and get closer. We just have to keep going on and getting back some respect."
NICE EFFORT: Quarterback Adrian McPherson struggled in his second start, completing just eight of 24 pass attempts for 139 yards. But McPherson did throw two touchdown passes. More importantly, he did not have any turnovers.
In both games, McPherson showed poise under pressure, throwing the ball out of bounds on the run, if all receivers were covered, and sliding to the ground on scrambles to protect the ball. It's something the Seminoles could not get Chris Rix to do enough during his tenure as starter. Rarely has McPherson thrown a pass into coverage that could have been an easy interception.
"The thing I liked best is he didn't do anything to lose the game," Bowden said. "He didn't didn't do anything to get us beat. Our offense was hurt by field position, penalties and us calling a conservative game because of our field position."
BETTER JOB: With three sacks and nearly a dozen hurries Saturday, the Seminoles successfully disrupted Yellow Jackets quarterback A.J. Suggs. The pressure led to three interceptions, including two by cornerback Stanford Samuels. Samuels' 82-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter tied the game and his end zone theft with 17 seconds to play sealed the win.
Additionally, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett registered his first two sacks of the season.
"If you're playing good against the pass, making plays, you've got 11 people doing their job," FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "A lot of times an intercept is not the result of a great play by a defensive back or a linebacker, it was affected by the pressure or the push of the rusher. I'm sure when we go back and look at this video we had some pressure and some folks hitting him, and then people breaking [on the ball] and making plays."
BAD LUCK: Backup tailback Willie Reid, expected to see his most significant action, separated his left shoulder on his first carry. He was in a sling Sunday.
"I landed the wrong way," he said. "It's real frustrating, finally having my chance to play a lot."
ENCOURAGED: Bowden is encouraged the defense is contributing. The Seminoles have not allowed a second half point the past two weeks after giving up 125 points after halftime in the first eight games. The defense also contributed some points when Samuels returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown as Georgia Tech was driving for what could have been a 14-0 lead.
"That was beautiful,'' Bowden said. "I think you can put it in perspective this way; had we done that in the Notre Dame game and the Miami game and Louisville game, we might be undefeated right now.''
MORE INJURY NEWS: Tailback Nick Maddox sprained his right ankle, but it's the least serious sprain (Grade I). Center Antoine Mirambeau and tight end Patrick Hughes suffered mild right knee sprains, and injury-plagued safety Claudius Osei will have X-rays today for a possible left hand fracture. Guard Montrae Holland traded a walking boot for an air cast and sneaker. The high ankle sprain could keep him out a few more weeks.