by Bill from Tampa
Before the game and with the team about to break
for Christmas Leonard Hamilton wondered if his Seminoles would commit to playing a forty minute game. For the first five minutes it looked FSU was not, as the St. Peters Peacocks took a 9-3 lead on a layup off the inbound play against a flat footed defense.
But when Jerel Allen nailed a three pointer at the 14:18 mark the basket seemed to spark the ‘Noles to life and propel FSU to an easy 76-63 victory.
The Peacocks utilized a 2-3 zone defense for the entire game that caused early difficulties for the ‘Noles in the form of numerous turnovers and an ineffective offense as Florida State did not take a
shot for the first several minutes. Allen’s three was the first basket of the game for FSU.
“It was good for us to go forty minutes against the zone” Hamilton said afterwards. “At times we attacked it well and will need that experience as we go into the Providence game next week.”
That was reflected in the improved shooting from behind the arc with FSU connecting on 7 of 15 three pointers.
The coach was not entirely pleased however. The miscues were a major issue. “Sixteen turnovers versus a zone defense is an area that has plagued us” commented Hamilton.
Five Seminoles scored in double digits lead by Al Thornton’s 14 points. Isaiah Swann had a good game shooting adding 12 points to go along with 6 rebounds. Ralph Mims and Casaan Breeden both scored 11 and Jason Rich added 10 points.
Thornton was worth price of the ticket alone with two highlight reel baskets and two blocked shots three quarters of the way thru in first half. The senior wowed the crowd with a NBA type under the rim back to the basket move with a defender hanging on him putting some English on the ball for the two points plus the foul. Later he added a slam dunk off the alley oop. In between the buckets Thornton defied gravity in dramatically swatting away a Quentin Martin shot.
With the Seminole offense struggling early, St Peters didn’t give FSU much chance to get in rhythm as the Peacocks would run the shot clock on every possession. Fortunately FSU was able to draw many fouls, getting into the bonus situation at the 13:03 mark.
After trading leads for the next few minutes Mims’ three pointer opened up an 18-14 lead that began to give the ‘Noles some space. Thornton and Breeden’s back to back three balls with roughly one minute remaining in the half gave FSU a 40-29 lead.
Raul Orta’s traditional three point play closed the scoring and the ‘Noles took a 40-31 lead to the locker room.
Again Hamilton emphasized coming out strong to start the second half and the players responded. Rich found Uche Echefu under the basket for a quick basket. Swann connected on a three from above the key. Rich added two free throws. After Toney Douglas nailed a three ball from the right wing on a nice assist from Swann, the Peacocks found themselves in a hole 50-33 forcing St Peters to call timeout to slow the run.
It didn’t work as St Peters never got closer than 12 points and were down by as many as 21 before Hamilton started bringing in freshman point guard Josue Soto, and walk-ons Matt Zitani, and Brian Hoff. The Peacocks were able to whittle away some of the deficit but never threatened the Seminoles.
After allowing St Peters to shoot 48% in the first half, the Seminole defense locked down, allowing just 36% in the second.
Another area of big concern for Hamilton was rebounding. The ‘Noles were out rebounded badly 42-25.
Hamilton addressed the issue saying “we have got to be more aggressive to be more effective rebounding the ball." He added, “In this area I am very concerned."
That falls mostly to the frontcourt of Echefu and Ryan Reid who combined for just 6 boards. Hamilton defended Reid somewhat saying while not very ill he was not 100%. “Uche seemed to lose some energy with some easy shots by St Peters.”
Still the head coach complimented his 11-2 team as they close out the out of conference portion of the schedule next Friday against Providence in Tampa. “We showed signs of being an outstanding team. We just need to work out a few bugs.”