by Bill from Tampa
A 22-4 run in the second half, a career high 18 points by Uche Echefu coupled with a much more energetic defense compared to Sunday night’s loss to USF saw the Florida State Seminoles easily defeat the visiting Georgia State Panthers by a score of 78-48.
Echefu was nearly perfect missing just one shot out of his seven attempts as well as connecting on all four free throw attempts. The junior forward made his presence felt right from the start of the game scoring 10 points in the first 6:30 of the game leading the ‘Noles to a 15-8 lead. He added 5 rebounds and 2 steals to his line as well.
Defensively FSU was very active in forcing 26 turnovers by the Panthers that included 15 steals. Ralph Mims backed up his five steals from Sunday night’s game with four more against Georgia State. But it was a team effort as seven Seminoles had at least one theft in the game.
That effort pleased Leonard Hamilton. “I liked our energy tonight” said Hamilton afterwards. We stepped up our defensive pressure. And were more physical inside”
What didn’t please Hamilton was rebounding especially the offensive boards. The ‘Noles gave up 18 offensive boards to just 9 for FSU. Overall the Seminoles were beaten on the boards as Georgia State had 41 rebounds to just 30 for FSU. Leading rebounder and second leading scorer Rashad Chase had 11 of those rebounds that included 7 on the offensive end.
Though FSU outscored Georgia State in the paint, mostly on the strength of a lot of layups off of those steals, the head coach was still concerned about the inside game offensively. Even though Echefu scored 18 most of his shots were jump shots from the perimeter. The other post players Julian Vaughn, Ryan Reid, and Solomon Alabi who played six minutes combined for just 9 points. And Vaughn had eight of those.
Despite that Hamilton said “We still need more out of him” referring to Vaughn. “It appears we will have to rely on our more experienced players” said Hamilton.
What that apparently meant is more touches for Isaiah Swann. “We need to get him 12 to 15 shots per game” added Hamilton.
Commenting briefly on Alabi’s play Hamilton said “Solomon still has not had a full practice. What he is doing out there he is doing on instinct.” What Alabi did do out there was have two blocked shots and altered a couple of others. He did pick up three fouls however, one on the offensive end for hooking and his one shot will not appear in any textbooks on how to shoot the ball. But Hamilton was pleased to be able to get him on the floor.
Florida State never trailed in the game and held 35-21 halftime lead. The ‘Noles were much better attacking the basket drawing several fouls late in the half in getting to the free throw line.
The ‘Noles ramped up their game even more at the start of the second half. Swann connected on a three from above the key, Echefu canned a nice stop and pop jumper from the left wing, and Jason Rich took a steal the distance to give FSU a 42-23 lead. That forced Panthers head coach Rod Barnes to call a timeout at the 17:31 mark.
Halfway through the second half though the ‘Noles experienced an offensive lull unable to make anything. A 10-2 run by the Panthers pulled then to 50-40 with 9:12 to play.
That’s when the Seminoles really ramped up the defensive pressure picking of numerous passes by the Panthers leading to easy run outs and layups or slam dunks at the other end. A decisive 22-4 run over the next five plus minutes left no doubt about the outcome.
The walk ons of Matt Zitani, Brian Hoff, Ben O’Donnell, and Josh Bolton along with Jordan DeMercy took the floor with two minutes left to finish out the game.
DeMercy was particularly active in his fourteen minutes on the floor with 2 steals, 6 points all on breakaways, and dishing out 2 assists.
Also in double figures was Swann with 14 and Toney Douglas with 10 points. Douglas added 3 assists with no turnovers.
Up next for the ‘Noles. A trip to Gainesville, where FSU has not won a game since 1993, to take on the defending champions. Tip off is 8:00 PM and will be televised on FSN in North and Central Florida only.