Florida State apparently has found its point guard of the future. And the present as well.
Despite having just eight practices under his belt, freshman Devon Bookert looked anything but in leading the Seminole offense to a dominating 88-70 win over Brigham Young. Bookert's line in the box score was impressive with 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from behind the arc, and 5 rebounds. More importantly though was his 5 assists against just 2 turnovers.
Keeping his head up at all times the Alaskan native fired pinpoint passes to his teammates that BYU just could not stop.
When Bookert was not in the game, the FSU offense clearly was not the same. Not that it struggled very much, mind you, with the team connecting on 58% of its shots. But during one stretch where Leonard Hamilton had Bookert on the bench, the 'Noles went more than three minutes without scoring a point. It was one of the rare moments in the game where the Seminoles lacked offensive cohesion.
TNT's Craig Sager commented to Hamilton that his team offensively looked in mid-season form. The coach of course was not going to agree with that saying there were plenty of "boo-boos" the team have to work on.
"I thought for a young team we displayed an ability to score even though we're in sync. We had some mishaps while trying to learn," Hamilton said.
The 'Noles built a 23-11 lead half way through the first half. Foul trouble for the Cougars and turnovers were the key factors.
BYU worked its way back into the game eventually tying the score at 34 a piece with 4:06 left in the half.
Bookert answered with a three pointer that ignited a 10-1 run to close out the period, giving the Seminoles a 44-35 advantage.
A key coming into the game for FSU was handling BYU's transition game. The Cougars like to play very uptempo all game long and eventually wear down teams. With its depth however, FSU's defense was able to almost completely stop that aspect of BYU's game and instead was the one reaping the benefits of the transition game.
Less than five minutes into the second half, the 'Noles held a 15 point lead, 58-43, that grew to twenty, 63-43, within ninety seconds..
The Seminoles looked to be in complete control when the lead grew to twenty-six, 80-54 with eight minutes remaining. With Bookert on the bench with four fouls and Hamilton saving him for the stretch run, BYU went on a 12-0 run to close it to 80-66 with help from FSU turnovers and beating the 'Noles' transition defense.
Michael Snaer ended the run with two free throws and Montay Brandon found Terrance Shannon on the baseline for an emphatic slam dunk and instantly FSU was back up 84-66 with 3:58 on the clock.
FSU's defense clamped down allowing only a Brandon Davies layup the rest of the game.
While this FSU team has in three games displayed an offensive capability not seen in past Hamilton teams (2011-2012 averaged jsut under 70 ppg), the defense had not been up to Hamilton's standards. That was not the case though against the Cougars. Credit assistant coach Corey Williams' game plan to stop BYU's running game, culminating in holding BYU to just 33% from the floor.
"Defensively, that was one of our better nights," Hamilton commented.
"Thirty-three percent from the field surprised our coaches and players," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "Florida State sped us up and we took some quick shots but besides that Florida State shoots 58 percent from the field. Our defense was slow. Our rotations were slow. They did a great job of finding the open man and made some great passes along the baseline."
Leading the scoring for FSU was Okaro White with 17 points. Snaer added 16 and Ian Miller was hot in the first half scoring 10 of his 15 points.
Tyler Hawes led all scorers with 23 and Davies ended with 19. Two other Cougars had 10 apiece.
The Seminoles improve to 2-1 and will play for the championship of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic tonight at 9:20. The Seminoles will face St Joseph's, 79-70 overtime victors over Notre Dame. The Hawks were picked to win the Atlantic 10.