The key to any out of conference season is to avoid any bad losses and to get a marquee win. One game into the season and the Seminoles are already behind the eight ball.
We described this as a trap-game in the preview, which, unfortunately proved to be true. Okaro White was in foul trouble less than two minutes into the game, and South Alabama - which had horrible 3-point luck the last time these two teams met (0-24) - couldn't miss from deep. They made 5-8 threes in the first half to take a five point lead, and made 4-7 in the 2nd half.
The Noles, meanwhile, couldn't get on track. Every time FSU made a run in the first half they derailed their own train with turnovers (11, in 36 possessions). The rotation was tightened up in the 2nd half, and FSU only had 6 turnovers, but they could never extend a lead past three points. In the end, poor shooting from deep and a bunch of missed free throws gave South Alabama an opening, and they capitalized. Terrance Shannon fouled a 3-point shooter in a tie game with :01 second on the shot clock (he did get the block first, and the shooter did push off), and after that FSU folded.
USA won 76-71.
Four Noles scored in double figures, led by Terry Whisnant and Montay Brandon with 11 a piece. Ian Miller had a tough start at his transition to the point guard position. He did have 4 assists to 2 turnovers, but he struggled scoring when he had the opportunity. He was just 3-8 from the line, which included misses on the front end of two one-and-ones. And in the 2nd half when the big three of Miller, Snaer and White needed to step up, they just couldn't do it consistently.
And with FSU's inexperienced defense, South Alabama just kept finding ways to get open shots.
The good news is that this team isn't getting any younger. The learning curve will be steep, and Montay Brandon and Aaron Thomas showed flashes of ridiculous skills. When I predicted 3 losses in the out of conference schedule, Matt asked me which of the big four games FSU would win. I responded by saying that FSU would actually win two of the big four (BYU, St. Joes/Notre Dame, Minnesota and Florida) and drop one we aren't expecting. Let's hope that this was that one game.
FSU has the weekend off, and then hosts Buffalo on Monday.