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FSU gears up for regular season, races past Valdosta State in an exhibition game blowout

This team appears capable of forcing turnovers.

Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat Chasity Maynard/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

In their second and final exhibition tune-up before the 2023-24 regular season tips off, Florida State kicked things into high gear and ran the Valdosta State Blazers off the court. Forcing 17 first half turnovers, FSU’s 36-29 halftime lead was about as small as it could have been all things considered. But in the second half, the pace picked up and the shots began to fall. The Seminoles led by as many as 33 with over 8 minutes left, before cruising to a 90-67 victory.

For the second Sunday in a row, VCU transfer Jamir Watkins was the most impactful player. FSU really doesn’t play with a true point guard in Ham’s late-career system, but Watkins might just be the guy who the offense should flow through. He has a lot of Terance Mann in his game. Watkins was everywhere, finishing with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 steals, leading the team in each of those categories.

Baba Miller also flashed again, finishing with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.

Prior to the game, we listed a few areas to watch. Let’s revisit them:

Timely defensive rotations and ball denial

There were so many deflections and turnovers the first is honestly a little hard to judge. The opening score of the game for the Blazers was a wide-open corner three for LaTrell Tate, the one guy we named as who you didn’t want to lose track of in the half court. But Tate was shut down after that (often by Watkins and Darin Green, Jr) and he finished just 1-6 from three and 5-13 overall. Of course there were a few nice cuts and passes here and there that resulted in buckets, but overall the ball pressure was so high and the passing lanes were so clogged, the rotations never even mattered. It was reminiscent of 2019 and 2020 when FSU forced nearly every opponent into 20+% turnover percentages.

Does Chandler Jackson play?

He did not, nor did he dress. He appeared healthy as he cheered on his teammates from the bench.

How frequently can FSU push pace after misses AND makes?

The first half was a mixed bag. FSU forced 17 turnovers, and was able to push the pace off a good bit of those, but even then it was a little sloppy and didn’t lead to a ton of points. And Valdosta State grabbed so many offensive rebounds, there was virtually no pushing off misses.

The second half was a totally different story. That is what Hamilton wants to see. FSU ran on pretty much every trip for the first 12 minutes, even when Valdosta State made a bucket. Turnovers and missed shots—of which there were plenty of both—led to dunks. FSU scored 40 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half. If they can play at that type of pace and not sustain any more hits to the depth, they should overwhelm a good chunk of their non-conference slate.

How comfortable does blue-chip freshman Taylor Bol Bowen look after another week of practice?

Rough the first half. Doing way too much thinking. But as the pace picked up in the second half, so did his play. He altered shots, deflected passes, and finished around the rim.

Who besides Watkins and Cam Fletcher can get their hands on deflections?

At least for one game, quite a few guys. I just mentioned Bowen, but as a team FSU finished with 20 steals—yes, twenty—and a bunch more deflections. Green, Jr. had 3, including one cross court pass he jumped like a DB anticipating an out-rout. Jalen Warley, an underrated defender last season, also had three, and Baba and Bol Bowen each had 2. Mission accomplished.

What role is Cam Corhen gearing up for this season?

It’s still unclear, but I’d love for it to be the Corhen we saw in the second half. The faster pace was in large part due to the energy and activity of Corhen (and Watkins). In just 10 second half minutes, Corhen was a garbage man around the basket and a menace on switches. In those 10 minutes he had 8 points, 3 rebounds (two offensive), and a block.

That does it for the preseason. FSU showed some things that indicate they might be a better team than last year, but it’s hard to really get a good sense of 1) how bad the competition was, and 2) what the depth truly looks like with three scholarship players still in street clothes.

The Seminoles will open the regular season against Kennesaw State this Friday, November 10th. It will certainly be a step up in competition, but just how big of a step is unclear. The Owls went 26-9 last year and gave third-seeded Xavier all they could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But their coach cashed in on his success and went to South Florida, and they lost their top two players as well.

The game tips at 6:00pm, making it a great way for all the fans coming in for the Miami game to get an early start on their cheering.