Despite a poor shooting first half, Leonard Hamilton was pleased to see his team get on track in the second period. After shooting as low as 19%, the Noles' converted only 29% in the first twenty minutes. Texas A&M CC predominately used a version of the 1-3-1 defense that had not previously been seen by the FSU squad causing some confusion and forced them into some hesitant decisions.
All that turned around in the second as the Seminoles shot over 50%. Utilizing a better offensive alignment overpowered the Islanders in the post area.
Hamilton's motto however is when a team is shooting the ball poorly; defense will keep you in games. And the Seminoles did a good job of that holding the Islanders to just 30% from the floor. The hustling Seminoles recorded a season high 17 steals in the game recorded by seven different players. In addition, the Islanders were forced into 23 turnovers. Shutting down their leading scorer Brian Evans (17 ppg) was also a key. That job was assigned mostly to Tim Pickett who did a marvelous job holding the point guard to just 2 points.
As has been the case in most games so far this season, Pickett was also the main force on offense for the Tribe. His 24 points led all scorers. Anthony Richardson had another fine outing in recording 15. Thomas and Travis Bailey had 12 and 11 respectively for the Islanders.
FSU started out in fine fashion when Richardson corralled an offensive rebound and tapped it over to Trevor Harvey for a slam-dunk. Pickett blocked a shot on the other end, got the ball back on a 2 on 2 break for the three-pointer. But, Travis Bailey nailed a three from the left wing and Sean Cole tied at five.
The score remained close over the first half. FSU attempted to get the ball inside but usually settled for the perimeter shot. More often than not the ball would circle in and out of the cylinder. At one point, FSU was 1 of 13 from behind the arc.
A lazy pass by FSU gave Travis Bailey an easy basket and their largest lead at 14-10 at the 11:31 mark. A Waleskowski finger flip and four straight free throws by Pickett gave Florida State the lead back at 16-14. That lasted just a few seconds as Texas A&M CC attacked immediately. Travis Bailey came off a double screen and canned the three from just right of the circle.
The back and forth game continued. A little more than two minutes later, Pickett hit the three. Tom Bailey answered to retake the lead 20-19. Richardson made two baskets from just inside the line and another Pickett three-pointer from the left wing gave FSU a 28-24 lead with 1:39 left. Pickett once again showed he is just not about offense as on the next possession he forced Tom Bailey to dribble the ball out of bounds. However, Harvey picked up his second foul and Bailey ended the scoring for the half with the free throws.
The Seminoles took a tight 28-26 lead into the locker room. It could have been larger. But some not so stellar free throw shooting (5 of 9, 9 of 19 for the game) plagued the Noles'.
The second half opened and it was readily apparent that Hamilton made adjustments. Having a distinct height advantage, Hamilton moved out of a 4/1 setup and put Waleskowski and Harvey down in the post area. The move paid off as FSU pounded the ball inside often. Florida State earned 34 points in the paint most of which were in the second half.
FSU outscored the Islanders by a margin of 13-3 over the first five minutes. Then two players, Aaron White and Kemar Burrowes, who had seen no playing time in the first half combined for twelve of the next fourteen Islander points. White's three closed the gap to 43-41 at the 11:59 mark.
Desperately needing a basket, it was unlikely hero Waleskowski that provided the spark. His first of three baskets during that stretch ignited a 16-5 Florida State run that essentially determined the outcome of the game. In the run, Pickett came out of no where to block a shot. The ball made its way to Todd Galloway for an uncontested layup. Galloway made a nice bounce pass to Nate Johnson for the transition basket. Waleskowski collected an offensive rebound passing out to Johnson who nailed the three. Harvey ended the run with a slam-sunk when Galloway got the steal and the assist.
When the onslaught was over, FSU led 64-46 with 7:23 remaining the game.
The Islanders could not muster any kind of offense against the tough Seminole defense s never getting any closer than 66-54.. They could only manage two baskets and five free throws for the rest of the game.
Feeling confident the outcome had been decided, Hamilton brought in the bench bunch to finish out the game. A Benson Callier free throw concluded the scoring for the final score of 72-56.
The 9-3 Seminoles conclude their non-conference schedule and move into league play against the defending champion Maryland Terrapins at the new Comcast Center. Tip-off is Saturday at 1:30.