With a grin on his face, Leonard Hamilton said after the game, "We're getting closer."
Given his team's second half performance on both ends of the floor against Tulsa it is easy to see why the head coach made that comment.
Leading 36-33 at the half thanks to a buzzer beater three pointer from Devon Bookert, the Seminoles shot 57% from the floor outscoring the Golden Hurricane by 16 points, while holding Tulsa to just 37% over the the second twenty minutes, leading to a 82-63 victory.
Hamilton earlier in the week said he was being patient with his defense It appears maybe that patience is paying off. And Hamilton's defense did it mostly without his three seven footers, putting Okaro White in the five spot much of the time.
Total Offense - Huskies
NIU #15, 485.77 ypg / FSU #24, 466.69 ypg
Rushing Offense - Huskies
NIU #9, 250.15 ypg / FSU #26, 203.38 ypg
Passing Offense - NOLES
FSU #42, 263.31 ypg / NIU #60, 235.62 ypg
Scoring Offense - Huskies
NIU #9, 40.77 ppg / FSU #14, 39.92 ppg
3rd Down Conversion Percentage - Huskies
NIU #15, 48.39% / FSU #37, 44.30%
Red Zone Offense - NOLES
FSU #8, .91% / NIU #74, .80%
Turnover Margin - Huskies
NIU #29, +.62 / FSU #96, -.54
Total Defense - NOLES
FSU #2, 253.77 Opp. ypg / NIU #35, 356.69 Opp. ypg
Rushing Defense - NOLES
FSU #5, Opp. 93 ypg / NIU #33, Opp. 139 ypg
Passing Defense - NOLES
FSU #3, Opp. pass yds. 2090 / NIU #41, Opp. pass yds. 2830
Scoring Defense - NOLES
FSU #7, Opp. 15.08 ppg / NIU #18 Opp. 19 ppg
Sacks - Huskies
NIU #11, 2.92 per game / FSU #26, 2.54 per game
Penalties (Fewest Yds. per game) - NOLES
FSU #74, 57.85 ypg / NIU #77, 55.92 ypg
Northern Illinois Coach Rod Carey is still getting used to being in the limelight. He went from offensive coordinator to head coach overnight, while his mid-major team vaulted beyond its players wildest dreams to land in a BCS bowl. But Carey is catching on quickly, doing a smooth job of answering the media's questions in this pre-Christmas presser.
On what to expect from Florida State:
"They're good. Understatement, probably, but it's also an overstatement. They're just really good. They're long. They're athletic. They're sound in what they do. Long, athletic, good, well-coached, play hard, do all of those things you expect and ACC champion to do. It's a good challenge, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and I know our players are, too."
On keys to winning the game:
"We need to play well. Guys, when you are going into a game like this, it is like any big game to us. You have to create turnovers. We have to take care of the ball. We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be able to stop the run. That's as old as football is. When you look at the matchups of the BCS teams versus to non-BCS teams, you look at the run games on both sides of the ball. Whatever team can establish the run and whatever team can stop the run, usually that leads to turnovers. That leads to points and, all of a sudden, that eventually leads to the outcome.
"The keys are going to be up front on both sides. I've heard it the numbers. Someone said their O-line outweighs our D-line and all that stuff. All that is good and well, but some of the O-lines in our conference outweigh our D-line, too, and we played pretty good against those O-lines. That's the key."
On how difficult it will be to run the football:
"We have to do that all the time anyways. We aren't 310 pounds or 315 pounds up front. We have a bunch of young guys playing who are not inexperienced anymore. They are just young. They might be a little light, so we have to do that anyways. That's part of what we normally do. We have to move things around and create angles and mismatches. We look for it all. We always use the term `Where's Waldo' and find him on defense. Let me tell you, Florida State doesn't have Waldo. They have a bunch of good football players. That's kind of how we go about things normally, so we'll do that again."
On FSU being the fastest team NIU has faced all year:
"No doubt, they are. I don't need to expand on that. They're fast."
Apparently sitting out the Louisiana-Monroe game for disciplinary reasons had an impact on Michael Snaer. And in a big way as the senior guard set a new career high with 30 points in leading Florida State to a hard fought 79-76 win over the Charlotte 49ers.
Snaer was 9-19 from the floor that included 5-10 three pointers as well as 9-10 from the stripe.
In recent weeks Snaer had talked about how he felt he needed to be more aggressive and putting the team on his shoulders and look to score earlier and more frequently in games. He did just that pouring in 17 points in the first half keeping the 'Noles close in trailing the 49ers 40-35 at the break.
A 17-5 run by the Seminoles to start the second period gave FSU a 52-45 lead at the 14:07 mark. The spurt was punctuated by Montay Brandon's uncontested drive down the lane for the layup followed by a three from the left corner.
Even after Charlotte tied the game at 52 all, Florida State built a seven point lead several times. Snaer's wide open three from the left corner gave FSU a 71-64 margin with 3:42 remaining.
The 'Noles looked like they had managed to gain the upper hand in the game. Charlotte thought otherwise.