Last year, coming off the first ACC Championship in school history, the youngsters on the Seminole basketball team just looked out of place. The defense was uncharacteristically bad, the offense struggled to find consistency—outside of the consistent buzzer beaters from the lone senior, Michael Snaer—and the Noles missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 5 years.
Last night, the team seemed to find their place. It wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch—there were 20 turnovers, many of them unforced—but roles were understood and movements were made with a purpose. The result was a 91-67 victory over a Jacksonville team that isn’t terrible.
Perhaps no player represents this growth better than senior Robert Gilchrist. A guy who averaged 8.4 minutes and 1.9 points per game last year—his first wearing the Garnet and Gold—Gilchrist looked much more comfortable with Coach Hamilton’s systems on both ends of the court. Against the Dolphins he set career highs in minutes and points (23 and 10 respectively) and drew praise from his coach after the game.
"Robert is still trying to learn the game," said Coach Ham. "He does have tremendous athleticism, he has a good standing jump shot, he’s learning how to defend and utilize his quickness in our schemes; so I was pleased that he gave us a big lift there tonight."
Not only was it Gilchrist’s best game as a Nole, he made plays at just the right time.
"He had a little run there where he got a big steal, a layup, and then he came back and hit a three; those things are what you call backbreakers."
Another all-around improvement came in the rebounding department. FSU, despite having multiple 7 footers, was manhandled on the glass for the majority of last year’s 18-16 campaign, with several of those losses seeing the Noles outrebounded by double digits. In the first game this year, FSU made use of their size advantage over the smaller, quicker, Jacksonville team and came away with a commanding 41-28 rebounding victory.
"[Rebounding] has definitely been preached a lot," remarked Okaro White, a senior from Clearwater. "You know we never really had trouble rebounding my first two years I was here and, you know, last year that exploited us on the court a lot. So that’s been a heavy focus…I think we outrebounded them by 13, so that’s a positive look going into the game against UCF."
Indeed it is a positive, one of many from a night that saw FSU avoid last year’s opening night misstep. At least for one weekend in November, FSU has an undefeated football and basketball team, and not many programs can claim that.
Other Notes and Quotes:
· Okaro White had a double-double, as led all players with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Of course he almost had his first triple-double, though I’m not sure he would have been too proud of it, as he finished with 7 of the team’s 20 turnovers. It should be noted that 6 came in the first half, and he looked much more comfortable in the second after Ian Miller and Aaron Thomas saw their first action of the season.
· Devon Bookert was lights out all game and in full command of the offense. He finished with a career high 9 rebounds.
o "What?! I didn’t know he had nine…that’s great to see him rebounding like that, hopefully he has a little Derwin Kitchen in him." –Okaro White’s response after he was told about Bookert’s rebounding numbers.
· Michael Ojo looked far more explosive, coordinated, and conditioned than last year and attacked the basket with aggression. He was a major factor in keeping them off the glass.
· "The challenge for us is for our team to create easy opportunities for each other." –Coach Ham. Hamilton also spoke about this team being much better off the dribble than most of his past teams, and how he wants us to continue to attack after we beat a press instead of crossing half-court and then standing around.
· "Both teams had a difficult time adjusting to the way the officials are officiating the game. I’m not sure we played particularly well, but we scored 91 points…and a lot of that is due to the way they are officiating the game." –Coach Ham
· "[FSU’s] size and athleticism wore us down a bit." – JU Coach Cliff Warren
· "Aaron has better overall lateral quickness than Michael…Aaron has a desire to defend you. In my opinion, he has more potential to be a better defender than Michael was." –Coach Ham