Friars Prep for ‘Nole Attack

Florida State and Providence will play in the first meeting between the two basketball programs on Friday Dec. 29 at 9:30pm at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.

FSU Expected Starters:
12 Al Thornton 6-8 F (16.5 ppg)
23 Toney Douglas 6-4 G (14.5 ppg)
25 Jason Rich 6-3 G (10.2 ppg)
03 Isaiah Swann 6-1 G (7.6 ppg)
41 Uche Echefu 6-9 F (7.4 ppg)

Key Reserves: G Jerel Allen, G Ralph Mims, F Casaan Breeden

Remember the George Washington game? Well Friar fans, the Florida State Seminoles present a similar type of challenge on Friday night in Tampa, Florida. Going on the road for only the second time this season, the Friars are going to face a Florida State team known for quick, pressure oriented defense and a transition offense that isn't shy from the 3pt. line. The Seminoles have four players who shoot over 35% from the 3pt. line and one in Toney Douglas who shoots it from behind the arc at nearly 46%. Leonard Hamilton has put together an 8 to 9 man rotation that, while lacking size, makes up for it with strong, on the ball defense and quickness at both ends of the floor. Florida State is averaging just over 9 steals a game this season with its three guard offense. (4th ACC)

On the inside, the Seminoles (11-2) are lead by ACC Player of the Year candidate Al Thornton, a 6-8 senior forward who is averaging 17.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocked shots and 1.6 steals during Florida State's current seven-game winning streak. He has scored in double figures in all seven games during the streak, has scored at least 20 points four times, with a high of 28 points in the Seminoles' victory over #4 ranked Florida (Dec. 3). Florida State is #1 in the ACC in free throw shooting through 13 games shooting 75.9% as team. The Achilles heel of this FSU team is their rebounding, which is last in the ACC.

If the Friars are going pull off an upset against a team that has a win over Florida already on its resume, (playing without Sharaud Curry assures underdog status) it is critical that they take care of the basketball. Against another ball hawking team in George Washington, and playing with Sharaud Curry, the Friars committed 19 turnovers, while also giving up a nine 3pt. field goals in a first half that had them down 1 at the half. It was also the last time Weyinme Efejuku had poor game (15min. 5TO's). The Friars ended up pulling away impressively in the second half in that one led by Herb Hill, Jon Kale, and Ray Hall, who all had impressive performances, but that group will have to play just as well against Florida State to pull out a victory. (Hall is still questionable with an ankle injury) They also are going to have to be more careful with the ball and cover the Seminole shooters.

With Weyinme Efejuku and Geoff McDermott forced to do more ball handling, Tim Welsh will undoubtedly also turn to his bench for assistance. At no point have the Friars needed their freshmen to step up and play beyond their years more. While Dwain Williams is expected to start, Tim Welsh may also give substantial playing time to guards Brian McKenzie and Jamal Barney, hoping they can prove they can execute a game plan in a big situation. All will have to play with composure, but more specifically, Williams will have to be aggressive while make good decisions with the ball, McKenzie will have to make open shots, and Barney will have to play defense with abandon.

Without their floor general in Curry, the Friars will likely try to play a smart half court game, pound it inside, dominate the backboards, and force Florida State to play at a slower tempo. If they accomplish that without foolish turnovers, Providence has a shot to win this important non-conference game. If not, they will have to lick their wounds and regroup for the quickly approaching Big East season.

Friar Notes: Friar Head Coach Tim Welsh and current assistant Vince Cautero are both former assistants at Florida State. Cautero is also a 1988 graduate of the Florida State. The Friars game against the Seminoles is part of a doubleheader which will also feature Wake Forest of the ACC and USF of the Big East. Florida State has won 7 straight games. This is the first meeting between the two programs on the basketball court. The game will be officiated by Big East referees Jon Cahill, Karl Hess, and Curtis Shaw.

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