Florida State fans had been hoping for a game where they could sit back and relax in the final minutes of a game knowing that the Seminoles had the victory secured long ago. Unlike the numerous nail biters in the previous eleven games, Thursday night at the Civic Center they finally got for the first time this season that blowout win over an opponent FSU was expected to easily beat.
Led by Solomon Alabi's 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots all career highs, the Seminoles pummeled the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 71-48.
It didn't take Alabi long to establish his dominance over the Buccaneers who had no answer for the Nigerian's height advantage. By the time 6:30 had elapsed in the game Alabi had 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks in helping the Seminoles build an early 14-5 lead.
Alabi was not alone in controlling every aspect of the game though. On a night when Toney Douglas had a quiet game with just 5 points on 2 of 11 shooting, it was the younger cast that picked up the scoring.
Chris Singleton added 9 points but also had 5 of the ‘Noles' 12 steals in the game. Xavier Gibson got into double digits with 11 points. Jordan DeMercy added 9 points with a couple of baskets coming on highlight reel slam dunks. Derwin Kitchen also made significant plays scoring 8 points to go along with his 7 rebounds. Ryan Reid added 9 boards himself.
FSU stretched out the first half lead to 36-20 when Singleton knocked the ball loose into the hands of Brian Hoff who launched a lengthy pass to a streaking Kitchen for the easy slam dunk.
However the Buccaneers' leading scorer, Jamarco Warren, got open on a screen and Kitchen could not get to him before Warren knocked down the three from the right corner. Warren shortly followed that with a driving layup plus the foul closing the margin in less than a minute to 36-26 at the half.
That would be as close as Charleston Southern would get for the rest of the game.
Singleton made a nice entry pass to Reid on the right block for the layup and then later found Alabi totally alone under the rim for the uncontested basket. Alabi followed with an offensive put back and the Seminole rout was on leading 40-26.
Highlighted by such plays as Singleton knocking away another ball tipping it to Douglas who raced down the floor lobbing the alley oop to DeMercy, the inbound pass from Luke Loucks along the sideline to Gibson under the basket, and Kitchen's rebound under Southern's basket dribbling out and firing a lengthy pass to DeMercy again for the slam dunk, the ‘Noles demolished Charleston outscoring the Bucs 35-19 in the second half.
Had FSU made free throws the margin would have been greater.
It was not a typical night at the line for the Seminoles connecting on just 10 of 22 at the stripe.
Leonard Hamilton spoke after the game on FSU's poor performance at the line attributing it to a lack of focus and lack of a pressure situation with FSU holding a commanding lead.
But other than free throws Hamilton was very pleased with his team's performance. "The guys came out very focused from the very beginning" said Hamilton. "We came out defensively minded."
The Seminoles held Charleston to 32% from the floor and the 12 blocked shots ties the fourth highest total in school history. FSU also forced the Buccaneers into 19 turnovers while significantly reducing their miscues to just 13 with only 4 in the second half.
One other aspect of the game that was greatly appreciated by Hamilton was the team's offensive execution. Unlike previous games so far Hamilton was "most pleased with how we executed in the half court." He added, "We moved and reversed the ball, set screens, set good screen angles …. I hope this becomes a habit."
"We seem to have grown some since the other night" Hamilton said referring to the team's lack of offensive execution against Tennessee Tech.
Hamilton specifically mentioned Uche Echefu, Gibson and Kitchen noting how the transfer from Iowa Western "pushes the ball and creates opportunities for others."
The sudden improvement of the offense could not have come at a better time what with the third ranked Pitt Panthers coming to town on Sunday. The nationally televised games on FSN tips off at 5:30.