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Noles Extinguish Fire, beat Southeastern 112-74

The first exhibition game was more like a practice, but nonetheless there were some positive signs. Here are some observations (we're gonna do this bullet point style since everyone is still in preseason mode):

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

General Thoughts –

· The team looked a lot more like a TEAM. Lots of communication between players, constant support of one another, and guys who were clearly more comfortable in their roles. It’s obviously early, but if nothing else Greece seemed to help out with chemistry.

· The starting lineup was Bookert, Montay, Okaro, Gilchrist, and Boris and they played well together. Ojo was first off the bench, replacing Boris at the 16:04 mark.

· Ian and Aaron Thomas never played. Both warmed up and appeared healthy and both were actively cheering on teammates from the bench.

· For most of the first half, FSU used their bigs to set screens on the wings and some at the high post, and then had them roll off the screen quite often. The second half got sloppy with Southeastern pressing the whole time and FSU spent most of the last 20 minutes either in transition or at the free throw line.

· Speaking of the press, FSU had some issues with it. However, considering the absence of Miller and Thomas, it was often Bookert forced to break it on his own.

· Southeastern was undersized, but rebounding was MUCH better. Guys boxed out and went up strong on both ends of the glass, with multiple put backs and dunks off offensive boards. Guards did a much better job of rebounding too.

· Using the incredibly scientific method of "that looked like a blown assignment to me," I counted 12 blown defensive assignments from the half court set during the game. Six came from the guards (mostly Montay and Brandon Allen) and six came from the big guys (mostly Jarquez Smith).

· Xavier Rathan-Mayes watched the game from just behind the Nole bench and was cheering on his teammates. Has to be a tough year for the kid, but he seemed in good spirits.

· It was 51-18 at the half, with FSU executing well out of the half-court on both offense and defense. The second half featured a blistering outside shooting performance from Fire point guard Dwayne Johnson (apparently we didn’t smell what he was cooking) but FSU was in control throughout.

· Southeastern brought quite a contingent of students--probably 30% of the overall fans. And they were quite boisterous too, especially for trailing by 30 for most of the game. Props to them.

· Seminole Boosters was passing out brochures to join the "Tip-off Club." Which is nice…if they were for the current year. The entire brochure was from last year, right down to the schedule. Combine that with no change in the multi-colored seats and you start to see some of the institutional support challenges Ham overcomes. No props to them.

Individual Player Observations –

· Robert Gilchrist looked a lot better. All over the offensive glass, tipped balls on D, made several mid-range shots plus a three, and ran the floor in transition for easy dunks. But the best thing I can say is that when he came off the floor, Ham was actually coaching him instead of just glaring at him. Seems like he is much more comfortable in his role.

· Devon Bookert pretty much could do whatever he wanted. On offense he could get to any spot on the court he felt like taking his man. Knee looked healthy—no brace—and he is clearly the floor general. He finished with 17, but could have scored 30 if he wanted. Also, was the best perimeter defender and often was used to extend pressure 6 feet byond the three-point line.

· Okaro White played under control. He went 3-5 from three, did the little things that don’t show up in a box score, and was more vocal. Finished tied for the team lead in scoring (with Montay) with 23. On offense he largely played on the wing, but did spend some time in the post when the backups were in. Defensively he spent time guarding the 1, 2, 3, and 4.

· Speaking of Montay Brandon, he has improved a lot in certain areas, but still has plenty of room to grow as a player. Had 23 points, including a three. But what was most impressive was his mid-range shooting off the dribble. Much better form on his shot. This also opened up room for him to attack the basket and either score or get fouled. However, when Book left the floor and Montay was left to run point…the ball definitely stuck. Defensively he was a mixed bag. Was out on the perimeter extending ball pressure at times, but at other times he either lost his man or closed out recklessly.

· Ojo looked far more coordinated and conditioned. He rebounded with authority and made his dunks/put backs. Also sank a couple free throws. Defense wasn’t elite—still gets caught in the wash on some rotations—but he did look more explosive and had a couple nice blocks.

· Bojo has put on lower body weight for sure, but still is undersized. On the opening defensive set he had a wonderful rotation and block. He appeared to improve his footwork, but he still gets pushed out of position on the boards. Him and Ojo were a nice combo, but we could use Kiel too.

· Jarquez Smith is the "bazarro world" Chris Singleton. Ridiculously long, not in the best condition, often lost on D but makes some great plays due to his athletic ability, high offensive IQ, and range out to three-point land. I believe he finished with 15 points, coming on a variety of shots including a top-of-the key three, put-back dunks, layups off nice cuts, and mid-range jumpers. His defense…well, it’s a work in progress. But he certainly looks like he will contribute. He played the game with a soft brace on his left knee.

· Brandon Allen played extensive minutes. I don’t know what will happen when Ian and Aaron play, but the kid can shoot. First shot, drained three from the corner. Next shot, pumped a defender right by him on a three, took two dribbles and pulled up for swished jumper. Third shot, drained a three from the other corner. He lacks some of the athleticism that even a Dulkys had, and he was lost on defense for much of the game, but the kid can shoot.

· Joell Hopkins came in and spelled Bookert and Brandon for stretches—he was basically our 4th guard. He reminded me of a bigger Pierre Jordan. Not a high level ACC player, but can give you some minutes here and there. He displayed good energy and tipped several balls on defense.