Starting for the injured Xavier Gibson, Bernard James made the most of his second start of the season by scoring a career high 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
But it wasn’t just James who helped Florida State in an upset win, 68-61, over 15th ranked Baylor.
Derwin Kitchen led the ‘Noles with 19 points and Chris Singleton recorded another double double with 17 to go along with 10 rebounds.
Following the Butler loss, Leonard Hamilton said he needed to find a way to convert the numerous good scoring opportunities his struggling offense had in the previous two games in the Diamond Head Classic. Apparently that solution was putting more ball handlers on the floor as he combined Kitchen and Luke Loucks on the floor together for much of the game.
The result was 17 assists on 24 made baskets and 44% shooting.
“I could see the focus … the body language before the game”, Hamilton said. “We learned a lot from Butler and moved the ball making the extra pass tonight.”
“We played with offensive confidence we have not always had this season.”
The affects of that were not immediately seen as the Seminoles fell behind 20-11 ten minutes into the game. But when Kitchen and Chris Singleton each hit three pointers a minute apart, that opened up things inside for James who scored six points over a three minute stretch.
James’ slam dunk on a nice assist from Terrance Shannon was followed by a three pointer by Snaer from the left wing giving FSU a 29-28 lead.
The ‘Noles continued to slice through the Bears’ defense the rest of the half and hold a 37-33 margin at intermission. By attacking the basket, FSU was rewarded with 52% shooting at the half.
The Seminoles seemingly took control of the game when Singleton made seven straight points for the ‘Noles giving them a 45-35 lead.
The Bears were not about to go away however with AJ Walton’s three closing it to 45-41.
Loucks’ three ball and Kitchen’s rainbow jumper from the right baseline put the margin back up to ten again at 51-41 with 9:45 to play.
Baylor chipped away again tying the game twice, the second occurring at the 3:15 mark, at 59 all.
FSU answered with a three pointer from Singleton from the left wing and a traditional three pointer by Kitchen on a four on one break caused by a steal at the other end to lead 64-59 with 2:04 to play.
FSU got a little sloppy with back to back turnovers but Baylor could not capitalize. Loucks’ charge resulted in two missed free throws by a usually automatic from the stripe Lacedarius Dunn.
Quincy Acy had a chance to make it 64-62 but made only one of two free throws with Singleton tying up the rebound for the jump ball and possession of the ball.
With fourteen seconds left, Okaro White made Baylor’s task just about impossible by calmly knocking down two freebies.
The Seminole defense showed once again why it is one of the nation’s best when Singleton knocked the ball away from Walton out above the key, corralled the ball and zipped it to Kitchen for the uncontested layup as the buzzer sounded.
For the game, FSU’s defense held Baylor to just 33% using the same matchup zone defense for much of the game. Hamilton credited Snaer for making the suggestion to deploy that defense.
Snaer got the assignment of guarding Dunn. While Dunn scored 23 points, it was a quiet three where he didn’t go off with any long scoring runs.
With the win, Florida State finishes third in the Diamond Head Classic, improves its record to 11-4 and will have ten days off before heading to Auburn for a January 3rd contest at 8 PM. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Florida.
Note: It was released that Xavier Gibson will be out six to seven weeks with a sprained MCL and a broken left hand.