A stone cold FSU team (29%) had trouble finding the bottom of the basket due in part to a well prepared Birmingham team. Normally a team that had been averaging around 80 ppg this season, the Panthers played a patient offense while doing a marvelous job of mixing and disguising their defense. Playing mostly a 2-3 zone defense throughout the game, the Panthers would cleverly sneak into a man defense that at times confused FSU.
Offensively, Birmingham moved the ball well running the clock down on many possessions while still finding a decent shot. Controlling the Seminole's desire to play more uptempo and the number of possessions was obviously the Panther's game plan coming into the game. Overall FSU managed just two fast break points. Hustling back on defense by the Panther's had quite a bit to do with that as well.
Despite a Tim Pickett steal, coast to coast layup and three-pointer to start the scoring for FSU, the Seminoles looked sluggish over the first twenty minutes. Pickett, who scored a game high 19 points, was the only weapon in the first half. Without his 15 first half points, the 33-25 deficit going into the locker room would have been much worse.
The two teams traded mostly three point baskets for almost the first ten minutes of the game. Pickett's drive to the hoop from way outside made the score 16-13. It would be the last basket FSU would score for the next 8:48. But, even though the ball found it's way inside, FSU saw most of its short range shots clang off the rim.
Meanwhile a scrappy Birmingham team fought for rebounds and waited for their shots. A D Williams three with 3:08 left gave Birmingham its largest lead at 28-18.
The halftime stats reflected the poor performance on offense by the garnet and gold. FSU was just 27% from the floor on 8 of 29 shooting. In addition, Birmingham pounded the boards outrebounding FSU 24-18. Even poorer was free throw shooting as the Noles' converted only 5 of 12 free throws. Meanwhile the Panthers were making 41% of their shots.
That all changed with the start of the second half. Hamilton frequently employed a full court press to jump start his team. And it worked in rattling Birmingham even if it didn't produce points for FSU. It did however prevent points by the Panthers as they scored just a paltry 14 points in the remaining twenty minutes.
FSU now took it to the visitors. Where Pickett was the lone weapon, Hamilton's by committee approach kicked in. Anthony Richardson scored the first five Seminole points. Nate Johnson and Michael Joiner contributed with Joiner's points coming on an offensive putback.
And then there was Todd Galloway's 10 second half points. Galloway, who finished with 12, sandwiched four free throws sandwiched around Joiner's bucket. Then, with three seconds left on the shot clock, Todd nailed a three pointer from four feet behind the line. It gave FSU a 41-39 lead at the 10:09 mark. They would not relinquish it the rest of the way.
Birmingham stayed close, but the Seminoles kept pounding at the Panthers eventually pulling away getting the Panthers in foul trouble. Not necessarily shooting the ball better from the floor, the Noles' did a much better job at the line. And that is where the difference was.
Unlike the first half, FSU converted 17 of 19 charity shots (22-31 overall) in the second half. Hamilton later said it was the one aspect the team worked on the most over the last week. The Panthers never went to the line in the second period and was just 4 of 7 for the game.
The defensive effort was reflected in the final statistics. Birmingham Southern's shooting dropped to 35%. Normally shooting in the mid 40% range for three point shots, FSU held the Panthers to 7 of 19 from behind the line. Two of those coming in the second half reflected the much tighter perimeter defense.
Corey Watkins led Birmingham with 13 points.
The come from behind victory moves FSU to 5-1 on the year. More importantly it proved that the Seminoles need to be mentally prepared to play all 40 minutes of game. However, the tenacity displayed in the 2nd period showed the Noles' is a positive in that the team did not fold and succumb to the upset minded Panthers. The Seminoles will continue to adjust to the loss of Andrew Wilson as well.
Next up for Florida State are the Stetson Hatters a team Birmingham Southern beat easily. Hamilton will make sure his team does not overlook this opponent. Tip off is set for Wednesday at 6:00 PM.