Derwin Kitchen afterwards summed up the game. “We’re a second half team. We just need to stop turning the ball over and quit making mistakes in the first half.
Therein describes in part how Florida State was able to overcome a 17-point second half deficit and silence (more like shutting up) a loud (and might I say annoying) Marquette crowd in beating the Warriors (or Golden Eagles or whatever they call themselves these days) 57-56.
Chris Singleton nearly stole the ball from him, but when Lazar Hayward (19 points) nailed a three from above the key, FSU trailed 39-22 with 15:38 to play.
It took nearly twelve minutes to do it, but a 26-9 run saw the ‘Noles tie the score at 48 with 3:48 remaining when Luke Loucks fed a perfect pass to Jordan DeMercy on the block for the slam dunk.
A little more than two minutes later FSU took its second lead of the game after Singleton drove the lane kicking out to Kitchen in the left corner. Calmly nailing the three, FSU took a slim 53-52 lead with 1:29 on the clock.
In what will be a classic in FSU basketball history the teams traded baskets twice, swapping the lead back and forth. Maurice Acker drove in on a clear path from the right side for the easy layup.
Solomon Alabi, who struggled offensively in the first half, used his size and not his dribbling “ability” laying in the ball. Hayward got the lead back again for Marquette before Alabi answered once again with a short turnaround baseline jumper in what turned out to be the last points of the game.
Only 11.9 remained on the clock and Marquette had the ball poised to make the game winning shot. But a cross court pass sailed high and into the Marquette bench giving the ball over to FSU.With just 2.9 seconds left Marquette nearly stole the ball on a Singleton inbounds pass to Kitchen. But David Cubillian stepped on the end line. Singleton heaved a three quarters court pass to Ryan Reid that was picked off. But the desperation heave was far short and the ‘Noles on the court and in the stands celebrated wildly.
Things looked bleak for the Seminoles in the first half trailing 30-18 at intermission.
The culprit as has often been the case was turnovers. FSU commited 13 miscues in the first twenty minutes but gave the ball away just 6 times in the final twenty.
Add to that that FSU shooting just 29.6% from the floor. It wasn’t as though the Seminoles didn’t have good looks, despite a Marquette defense that was constantly on the hip pocket of the ball handler. They did. Nothing would just go down.
But the ‘Noles kept themselves mentally in the game and as Leonard Hamilton has often said, this is a good shooting team.
With good shooting teams, eventually the ball will go through the hoop. That was reflected in a second half where FSU shot 56.7%. It helped that the ‘Noles were attacking the basket harder.
Credit Hamilton in going to a smaller lineup in the second half, utilizing at times a four guard lineup of Loucks, Kitchen, DeMercy, Devidas Dulkys, and Singleton. The strategy paid off against the smaller Marquette squad. Only when he needed a shot blocker on the floor late in the game did Hamilton insert Alabi, who changed at least two Marquette drives to the basket.
Leading the way once again was Singleton with 19 points, fifteen coming in the second half. Kitchen, who scored the first six FSU points of the game, finished with 14.
Singleton also was awarded most valuable player for Florida State in the tournament.
So now the Seminoles (6-1) have a trophy to put in the trophy case, winning the Old Spice Classic against a team that's had a knack over the last several years of winning November tournaments.
The ‘Noles will also have their name placed on the banners at the Milk House at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, joining previous champions Arkansas, North Carolina State, and Gonzaga.
That will go a long way in erasing last Tuesday’s disappointment in Gainesville.
The ‘Noles will get another chance to prove what kind of team they are next Wednesday. FSU will travel to Ohio State to take on the 17th ranked Buckeyes as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tipoff is at 9:30 and will be televised on ESPN2.