The 17th ranked Florida State men’s basketball team took care of business in their final non-conference game of the year, dominating the North Alabama Lions 88-71. The win brings FSU to 11-2 on the season.
In stark contrast to the previous three games, FSU took control of this one early. After struggling with containing smaller guards from North Florida and South Florida off the dribble, FSU’s defense opened the contest with noticeably better execution on their rotations. Devin Vassell, in particular, seemed to be dialed in from the tip and Malik Osborne was doing a great job being vocal and communicating with his teammates. The early energy on defense helped FSU jump out to a quick 6-0 lead.
A few poor shots (both in selection and execution) turned into some easy buckets the other way for North Alabama and the Lions actually led 7-6 at the under-16 minute media timeout. However, FSU’s relentless defense made it tough for UNA to make even a simple pass on some possessions. A flurry of live ball turnovers quickly pushed the Seminole lead out to 21-11 by the second media timeout.
From there, the lead steadily grew with the final margin being the only thing in doubt over the last 30 minutes of the game. The Seminoles led 47-26 at the half, shooting 16-23 on two point shots in the opening stanza.
The lead ballooned up to 30, 59-29, after a pair of Trent Forrest free throws at the 15:31 mark of the second half. The Lions tightened it up to 62-41 with a quick 8-0 spurt, during which the energy level for FSU dropped for the first time all game. Sensing the change, Coach Hamilton brought in four guys off the bench, including freshmen Patrick Williams and Balsa Koprivica, and the ‘Noles immediately extended the lead back out to 69-44.
From there, some late-game hot three point shooting by North Alabama made the final score closer than how the majority of the second half played out. Unfortunately, that will prevent this game from being the boost to FSU’s NET rating that it could have been. But at least the ‘Noles got out the game without an injury—Trent Forrest gave fans and coaches a brief scare after he landed hard following a fantastic chase-down block.
Rice transfer Malik Osborne paced FSU with a season high 14 points in just 18 minutes of action, including making 2-5 from deep.
Koprivica finished with 13 points on 5-6 shooting from the field and Williams added 12, meaning the three leading scorers were all newcomers to FSU’s team.
Sophomore Anthony Polite once again displayed outstanding defense, both on and off the ball, and also did a nice job of pushing the ball up the court with crisp passes on the fastbreak. This is an improvement from earlier in the year when he would over-dribble at times, making it tougher to execute in transition.
As a team, FSU went 100% from the free throw line, making all 17 attempts.
The win was Florida State’s 14th consecutive victory at home and the Seminoles are now 56-3 in their last 59 home games. FSU will stay in Tallahassee for a few more days preparing to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the Tucker Center at Noon on New Year’s Eve.
Coach Hamilton discussed in detail his team’s struggles with containing guys off the dribble and why he felt they were able to do a better job of it today (at least in the first half). He also talked about how his staff has slowly brought along the newcomers, but that he’s going to be expecting more out of them as they move into ACC play.
Redshirt sophomore Malik Osborne talked about his big day, buying into the game plan, how critical it is for FSU to be 18 strong, and more:
Lastly, I wish I had footage of North Alabama head coach Tony Pujol, but I had a tech malfunction. Anyway, if someone finds a link please share in the comments. Apparently he coached high school ball in Miami while Coach Ham and Coach Jones were at UM and he was effusive with his praise for FSU’s staff. Said Coach Hamilton is one of the guy’s in the business who everyone respects and that he not only is obviously exceptional at building winning programs, he is a tremendous “maker of men.” Coach Pujol also stated that he’s tried to borrow a lot from Hamilton as he helps UNA transition into Division 1 basketball, since Hamilton turned Miami into the Big East champs 5-10 years after the Hurricanes had nearly shut down the program.