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No. 14 FSU basketball drops first game of the season, to defending champ Villanova

Neither the desired result nor a terrible loss.

Florida State v Michigan Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Florida State basketball teams finally took its first loss of the season this afternoon, coming up on the short end of a 66-60 result against the Villanova Wildcats in the title game of the AdvoCare Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Things started perfectly for Villanova. Not only was FSU unable to speed up the game, the ’Noles were virtually sleepwalking in falling behind 10-2. And the Seminoles’ somnambulism was just fine with the Cats, who want to play at an extremely slow rate— hence averaging 24 seconds per possession in the first half. The Wildcats were also living right where they prefer: beyond the arc, drilling a couple of threes in the games’ first few minutes.

But Florida State adjusted after the first media timeout, and allowed just a lone VU trey over the rest of the game, as the Cats finished 3-14. FSU climbed back into the game by introducing some chaos, which resulted in an early 8-0 lead in points off turnovers. That stat would eventually even out, and unfortunately for the ’Noles, so did three-point success; Florida State went 3-12 from deep, not sinking a long ball until the second half. Sniper P.J. Savoy was largely ineffective for the second straight game, playing just 12 minutes and going 1-3.

Still, FSU didn’t shoot poorly, finishing at 43%; but it could just never get Villanova below 50%, as the Cats wound up shooting 53% from the floor. Yet the game was close throughout, with 11 ties and 8 lead changes, in part because Florida State nearly doubled ’Nova on the offensive glass (13-7). But while it was definitely a defensive priority to take away the Wildcats’ three-point looks, and that was certainly accomplished, the approach hampered the ’Noles dribble-drive defense, as the defensive rotation was at times slow, at other times virtually nonexistent.

But that looked to be on scheme more than tired legs, as the FSU reserves played a huge part in this. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton looked to his bench early and often, as a means of upping tempo, which largely worked. Villanova’s second-half possessions were an average of four-seconds shorter than those of the first half. And the Seminole bench outscored Villanova’s 33-4 (not a typo). Mfiondu Kabengele is becoming a super sixth man, and he led the team with 11 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.

Young reserves are getting some nice burn, too. Anthony Polite played 25 minutes, David Nichols saw 18 minutes, and RaiQuan Gray got 15 minutes of action. And while the starters need to do more than they did today (27 points, 15 boards, and four assists are not enough), quality depth and new players with big-game experience will only serve to help FSU when it gets to the grind of conference and postseason play.

FSU is back in action on Wednesday night, when it heads home to host the No. 24 Purdue Boilermakers at 9:15 pm on Wednesday night as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.