Florida State traveled to Gainesville Tuesday night to take on its first real test of the season. Unfortunately they did not come away with a passing grade in losing 68-52 to Florida.
The Seminoles were rattled from the start by a myriad of various press defenses the Gators threw at them. At one point in the game the ’Noles had more turnovers (15) than points (14).
The Seminoles finished the first half with 16 turnovers.
The only saving grace for Florida State was that the Gators were turning the ball over early as well that allowed FSU to keep pace.
But a scoreless span of 7:27 gave Florida an opening to build a lead they would never relinquish. Following a Xavier Gibson basket that ended the scoring drought to bring the Seminoles within 17-12, Florida went on a 15-2 run to open up a 32-17 margin.
The Seminoles looked unprepared for the 2-1-2 press the Gators slapped on early and often. Leonard Hamilton admitted as much after the game saying “We all knew we would face the press” but “I didn’t expect us to act like we had never seen a press before.”
“That was the best strategy you could have used against a team that is still trying to find itself,” Hamilton added. “The 2-1-2 caused a lot of indecision and we just did not have the right leadership. Once we crossed half court we were tentative."
Trailing 39-19 at the half, FSU regrouped after intermission and made a game of it. Starting with a more ball hawking defense that sparked a 19-4 run over the first 8:03 of the second half to bring them within five at 43-38. Several steals allowed the ‘Noles to get out in transition, where they are at their best, to make a game of it.
FSU might have even taken the lead, but three turnovers by Florida were not converted into points on the other end.The key moment that appeared to end any hope for the Seminoles to win the game came on back-to-back turnovers. After Jordan DeMercy tried to take the ball to the rim on a two-on-one break, he was instead called for charging into Dan Werner. That seemed to take wind out of FSU’s sails as the Gators ran off thirteen straight points to lead 56-38 with 6:59 left in the game.
From there it was just essentially treading water and more of the same mistakes that got FSU into the hole in the first place. That was highlighted by a three on one breakaway by the ‘Noles that ended with Derwin Kitchen’s pass to the left corner being picked off.
Hamilton commented “You have to give credit to Florida. We had our hat handed to us and they just outplayed us. Mentally we were not prepared. The effort was OK.”
The frustrating thing to Hamilton though was when he said that the team started working against the press on the first day of practice. For whatever reasons the ‘Noles just were not ready for what the Gators gave them. “We all have to accept responsibility for that,” added FSU’s head coach.
Leading the Seminoles was Kitchen with 15 points and Chris Singleton who scored the first ten FSU points in finishing with 14.
Despite taking care of the ball much better in the second half the Seminoles still turned the ball over 23 times for the game.
The defensive effort by Florida was also reflected in the shooting as FSU was just 33% from the floor helped along by just 3 of 16 from behind the arc. That was a direct product of the ‘Noles inability to solve the Gators’ half court defense and settling for long jump shots.
Rarely could FSU get the ball inside to their big man Solomon Alabi (8 points, 6 rebounds), who had two and three defenders collapse on him every time he touched the ball.
FSU won’t have long to think about their first loss of the season, moving on to play three games in four days at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. First up will be Iona (3-0) on Thursday night at 9 PM. The game will be televised on ESPNU.