Leonard Hamilton said it best after the game. "We find a way to make it interesting." And by interesting the head coach obviously meant yet another game not for the faint of heart if you are a Seminole fan this season.
Six games, all wins, have been decided by a total of just 18 points for the now 9-1 Seminoles.
After struggling to get any separation in the first half from the pesky Panthers, Jordan DeMercy's three pointer opened up a 19 point lead for Florida State with 13:05 to play. It was all downhill from there as the Seminoles connected on only three more baskets the rest of the way and was outscored 25-11.
But in the end FSU held off Georgia State to win 62-57.
It was Derwin Kitchen who saved the day for the ‘Noles. Just the day before the NCAA granted Kitchen clearance to play and it could not have come at a more opportune time. Kitchen got between two Panthers to grab the rebound off Leonard Mendez's missed three point attempt with 4.4 seconds left. Fouled on the play the sophomore guard got his first points as a Seminole to seal the win calmly sinking both free throws.
Fifteen seconds earlier it was Luke Loucks stepping to the line on a one and one. The freshman handled the pressure situation easily connecting on both charity shots to give FSU a 60-57 lead.
Tied at 16, Toney Douglas scored eight consecutive points for FSU to give the ‘Noles a 24-18 margin.
Leading 30-25 at the break the Seminoles displayed more hustle to start the second period. Douglas was again at the forefront scoring nine points including a layup on a one on two breakaway play. His three ball from the left wing right before DeMercy's shot gave FSU a 48-32 lead.
The Seminoles looked in control after DeMercy's three ball. But as has been the case earlier this season the ‘Noles must have looked at the scoreboard, took their foot off the gas pedal, and found themselves hanging on for dear life.
Joe Dukes' three over DeMercy with just one second on the shot clock pulled the Panthers to within one point, 58-57, with 2:02 left in the game.
At one point in the 25-7 Panther run, Douglas committed two egregious fouls in a matter of minutes on Trae Goldston (24 points) as he was taking a three point shot. An 80% shooter, Goldston made FSU pay by making all six attempts.
But somehow FSU found a way to pull out the game.
Dukes' layup would not go down on the ensuing possession and DeMercy grabbed the rebound smartly calling timeout to allow Hamilton to set the play.
With five seconds between the shot clock and the game clock, FSU got the ball into Douglas' hands. The senior wisely called FSU's last timeout as he was being double teamed to prevent any turnover. GSU blanketed Douglas on the inbound pass allowing Loucks to receive the pass thus setting up the crucial foul shots.
A relieved Hamilton credited GSU for their effort but was quick to mention his team's struggles on offense. "We are not a well oiled machine right now", said Hamilton.
"There are a lot of areas we need to improve. We need more screens, we need more ball reversals. We just made poor decisions in transition and never got in an offensive flow."
Still, even with all of that, when FSU shot the ball and wasn't turning it over (15 for the game) the ‘Noles were quite effective connecting on over 50% of their shots.
Defensively FSU held GSU to 38% but with nearly half on the Panther shots coming from behind the arc. The perimeter shooting however allowed FSU to dominate the boards 32-23 helped by the ‘Noles height advantage.
Douglas led FSU with 23. Chris Singleton was the only other Seminole in double figures adding 11 points.
It wasn't all bad for Hamilton however saying "I'm glad we were able to get the win while we are learning to grow."
Next up for FSU in what Hamilton called the most important part of the season for his team with three games in the next week is a Tuesday contest against Tennessee Tech. Tip off is at 7:00 PM.
If Florida State can finish that three game stretch up with a win over third ranked Pittsburgh on Sunday night Hamilton felt his team would be in a very good position heading into the Christmas break.