What a difference a year makes. After watching FSU struggle through the worst defensive season of Ham's tenure, the new-look Noles look decidedly different. And that's with their starting center on the bench with knee issues. UCF specializes in spot-up 3s and taking it to the rim. FSU took the former away with timely and well-communicated switches, and took the latter away by being in position early enough to pinch all of the gaps on UCF drives. The Noles took a 5-point lead at the half, and then stingy defense allowed them to extend that to an 80-68 win in a 75 possession game.
The Noles controlled the tempo as they looked to run on every defensive rebound and turnover. UCF tried to slow the game down, but only found limited success. FSU is now 2-0, and faces a tuneup this weekend before traveling to Puerto Rico to take on Terrance Shannon and Virginia Commonwealth.
In the first half and in the first eight minutes of the 2nd half, FSU turnovers combined with not controlling the defensive glass allowed UCF to stay in it. UCF - which played most the night in a zone - couldn't stop FSU once the Noles went to a small lineup. Ian Miller led the way with 18 points, while Devon Bookert added 17 points and 5 assists, Okaro White had 13 points and 4 blocks, and Robert Gilchrist had five dunks on his way to 10 points.
It was on defense however that FSU looked really impressive. They forced UCF into 20 turnovers (27% turnover rate), and FSU blocked 13.3% of UCF's shots. UCF is a solid team (favored by 1.5 tonight) but they couldn't find a bit of rhythm against the Noles. FSU teamed up to do a fantastic job on UCF star Isaiah Sykes, holding him to 13 points (on 15 shots) and forcing him into 4 turnovers.
Next up, FSU faces Leonard Hamilton's alma mater Tennesse-Martin on Sunday at the Tuck. I was surprised with how many fans hit me up on Twitter to say how much fun this team is to watch. You should be able to pick up almost free tickets on stubhub, so go give your Noles a look.