It wasn't pretty but they got the job done and earned a tournament championship. For the second year in a row, the Seminoles won their OOC championship. Last year they defeated the like of Cincinnati and California in the Global Sports Challenge in Las Vegas. If you have access to EPSN360, try and check out this game; it will show you the character of this team.
This was the fourth game in six nights for the Seminoles. The previous three games were low scoring affairs against teams that played a consistent full court press that certainly drained the legs of the Seminoles. It showed. The Golden Eagles out hustled the Seminoles, grabbing loose rebounds and playing press man to man defense. They collapsed on anyone in the post and were over playing the ball.
At the half, Marquette led 30 to 18 and the Seminoles had 13 turnovers. Alabi and Reid combined for 6 turnovers in the first half. Neither team shot well in the first half, shooting in the high 20/low 30% mark. Each time the Seminoles would show life, Marquette would respond and extend their lead. Alabi was ineffective on the offensive end in the first half due to Marquette's defense. He wasn't able to get great position and put the ball on the floor too far away from the basket. This allowed Marquette's smaller guards to force turnovers. Defensively, he continued to shut down the paint. However, Alabi wasn't able to contribute to breaking the press. Too often, he was caught in the middle of the court with no one to pass to. Granted, he should not be the one who ends up with the ball in that situation. Given the limited effectiveness of the big men on offense and how they were being beat off the dribble and run around by Marquette, Hamilton went small.
With about 11:50 to go in the second half, the Seminoles started to claw their way back into the game. Derwin Kitchen hit a huge three point shot that seemed to spark the Seminoles offense. This started the exhausting effort to get back into the game. The Seminoles capitalized on the fact that Marquette started to get tired. The Seminoles showed new life on defense and Jordan Demercy played a long stretch of minutes and had an energizing dunk off a no look Loucks pass.
By the end of the game, both teams looked absolutely exhausted. Marquette only played 8 players. Florida State went 9 deep. However, all the time during this run, Solomon Alabi was on the bench. Plus, Chris Singleton had to sit out due to foul trouble until the last few minutes of the game. The turnovers by the Seminoles big men was the blessing in disguise. As Marquette's legs wore out, they missed more and more, allowing Alabi and Singleton to grab key rebounds.
The last minute of play was back and forth play that led to Solomon Alabi making up for his relatively quiet tournament. With 25 seconds to go, the Seminoles were down by one. As they set up in the half court offense, Alabi established good position on the low block and received a nice inlet pass. Marquette was late to double on Alabi, allowing him to land a nice turnaround jumper to put the Seminoles up 57-56. If Marquette had doubled, he had the height advantage to find the defender. Given his good position and that they didn't double, he had the option to hit the game winner. Alabi had two key baskets down the stretch and the fact that he rested for most of the second half gave him a significant advantage. He turned very quickly to make the last shot. In the first half, he was slow to turn and felt compelled to put the ball on the floor. Not this time.
With 11.9 seconds to go, Marquette had one last possession that resulted in an errant pass into Marquette's bench. A couple of inbounds plays later...Seminoles win. Chris Singleton earned player of the game. He had an outstanding tournament. During the tournament, he averaged 15 points and 7.6 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 block per game. In the championship game, he had 18 points and 10 rebounds with four steals.
The Seminoles were able to endure through this game and earn the victory, showing their heart to fight through a huge deficit to a team that was playing great defense. As exciting as this win was, the Seminoles still have a lot of work to do. They have proven that they can go small and be effective. Snaer who had a very quiet stat sheet played a very nice game especially on the defensive end. He, unfortunately, missed a number of wide open looks from behind the arc and rushed a number of shots around the basket. He played a deceptively large roll in helping the Seminoles win this tournament. Like the rest of this team, there is work to be done.
The Seminoles get two days off before they head to Columbus, Ohio to take on a very good Ohio State team. With this victory, FSU has the opportunity to beat an SEC, Big East and Big Ten team in the off-season. Ohio State is a very balanced team and it will be a hostile crowd in Columbus.
The Seminoles earned this victory tonight. Congrats to Coach Hamilton and the rest of the Seminoles for winning the Old Spice Classic Tournament. Well done.