Our fear for this game - with the students gone, the team coming back from a week off, Devon Bookert out with an injury - was that the Noles would come out sluggish. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened.
Southeastern Louisiana, one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation, used a couple of difficult 3s to take an early 12-6 lead. The Noles seemed to be getting decent shots, but nothing was falling.
Luckily, Benji Bell came ready to take advantage of the extra playing time he'd get with Bookert out with a wrist injury. He came off the bench and scored eight points in less than two minutes. A few possessions later he drew the entire defense driving from the right side, and made a beautiful dish to Phil Cofer for a dunk. At that point, the Noles went up four, and SLU would never lead again.
Despite trailing, SLU ran clock on every possession, trying to shorten the game. It was a 26-possession half, which was easily Florida State's slowest of the year.
Leonard Hamilton addressed the slow start to the game in postgame, saying "Southeastern Louisiana did a very good job of slowing the game down, not allowing us to get out in transition. Many times they shot the ball with under 10 seconds on the shot clock, which I thought was very smart of them."
FSU's final three buckets of the half were alley oops from Xavier Rathan-Mayes (to three different players), and the Noles led 29-22 at the break. At halftime, XRM had five assists and zero turnovers. The team only turned it over once.
In the 2nd half, SLU came out playing more quickly. They had to, in order to get back into the game, but FSU pushed ahead, and led by double figures at the first media timeout. From there the game settled into a bit of a lull. FSU wasn't able to pull away, but the Lions weren't able to cut the deficit to single digits.
That lull played out for much of the half, until SLU buried a three to cut the lead to nine at 54-45 with seven minutes remaining.
FSU once again looked to Benji Bell for offense, and he knocked down two quick 3s. But SLU kept making 3s of their own, and at one point were 5-8 in the 2nd half before cooling in the final minutes. Once they cooled, it was over. The Noles extended the lead down the stretch, and walked away with a comfortable 75-58 win.
It was a 64-possession game, which is nine possessions slower than the previous low for the year.
Benji Bell, who made 4-4 from beyond the arc, led FSU with a career high 18 points. Malik Beasley wasn't efficient, but had 16 points and eight rebounds. Phil Cofer had nine, XRM had seven points and 11 assists, and Terance Mann had seven points and six rebounds.
FSU next hosts 5* freshman Malik Newman and Mississippi State on Wednesday.