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No. 20 FSU basketball opens season with dominant win over Penn

Malik Osborne’s fourth career double-double powers Seminoles to blowout victory.

NCAA Basketball: Pennsylvania at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Tallahassee, FL- Florida State basketball opened their 2021-22 season with an impressive 105-70 win over the Penn Quakers. The Seminoles’ offense started slow, but their defensive intensity sparked a surge. Four of Florida State’s five starters were in double figures. All five starters had at least one steal. The ‘Noles scored 37 points off turnovers, as they turned the Quakers over on 32.1% of their possessions. Malik Osborne led the way with his fourth career triple double. His 18 points and 13 boards were both career highs as a Seminole.

Leonard Hamilton began the game with a small lineup on the floor. With Tanor Ngom out (concussion), Hamilton started Osborne at the five and Wyatt Wilkes at the four, with guards RayQuan Evans, Anthony Polite, and Houston Cougars transfer Caleb Mills all starting.

The Quakers jumped out to a three-point lead with a deep triple on their first possession. Mills drove hard into the paint and kicked out to Evans for a wide open three to tie the game on Florida State’s second possession. The Seminoles trailed by one at the first media timeout after Jalen Warley laid in a bucket in transition. The easy bucket came off Mills’ second early assist.

Osborne gave the Seminoles their first lead of the game with a pair of free throws shortly after the media timeout. The senior’s free throws came after consecutive offensive boards. FSU couldn’t get the shots to fall early, but the Noles played with intensity on both ends of the floor.

In a span of two minutes, they forced five turnovers. The home side started the game just 2-11 from the floor, but grabbed five of their nine misses. Freshman Matthew Cleveland snapped a run of six straight misses as he converted a contested layup on a strong drive. Penn led 14-13 at the second media timeout after a Jordan Dingle triple.

Osborne, once again, swung the lead back in FSU’s hands. The forward picked up a loose ball and attacked the rim for an easy bucket. Evans and Cleveland followed his lead with back-to-back strong takes to the hoop. Kentucky Wildcats transfer Cam’Ron Fletcher capped a quick 8-0 run with a steal-and-score. It was Fletcher’s second steal in his first five minutes as a ‘Nole. Fletcher’s basket forced a quick Penn TO as the Seminoles went up 21-14 with 10:31 remaining in the half.

Despite turning the ball over on 50% of their possessions 11 minutes into the game, the Quakers were still within striking range of the Seminoles. Dingle’s second triple, a lengthy heave from the logo, cut FSU’s lead to four. Clark Slajchert converted an and-one to make it a three-point game. Polite responded with his first triple to put the ‘Noles up 28-22 at the under-eight media TO.

The Seminoles began to open up a comfortable lead behind their veterans. Osborne made his first triple to stretch the lead to nine. With 5:30 remaining in the half, Osborne had 14 points on just four shots. Polite capped a 9-0 run with an easy layup in transition off a steal by Osborne. The Rice-transfer upped the lead to 11 with an alley-oop layup off an in-bounds pass. The bucket gave him a new high as a Seminole with over three minutes still remaining in the first half.

Mills started slowly in his FSU debut, missing his first five shots and not scoring a point through the first 16 minutes. However, the Houston transfer turned it on with back-to-back buckets to up the lead to 13. Jonah Charles’ third three-pointer stopped the bleeding for Penn and cut the lead back to 10.

Fletcher provided the highlight of the half. The Kentucky transfer swiped an inbounds pass and sprinted down the floor for a thunderous one-handed slam. The 6’7 Fletcher was a one-man wrecking crew on the defensive end of the floor as he produced four first half steals.

The Seminoles entered halftime with a 51-39 lead. The ‘Noles shot 50% from the floor and 23 of their points came off turnovers. The Quakers turned the ball over on 38% of their first half possessions, but kept themselves in the game with five triples and 10 free throws. FSU had just six turnovers and also produced 10 second chance points from 10 offensive rebounds. Florida State separated themselves with tempo, much of that due to the disruptive defense. The ‘Noles had 14 fast-break points while the Quakers had none.

Osborne led the way with 17 in the half. He also led the ‘Noles with eight boards. Fletcher added nine points to go along with his four steals.

The ‘Noles came out of the locker room with the same intensity they played with in the first half. FSU forced Penn turnovers on their first two possessions. Mills and Evans both found easy buckets on the Seminoles’ first two possessions. Polite ran down a long board on FSU’s third possession, which led to second-chance points for Mills. The Houston transfer nailed his first three-pointer. The triple upped FSU’s lead to 19 as the Noles scored the first seven points of the half.

Evans was FSU’s most confident scorer in the pre-season as he led the ‘Noles in scoring in both exhibitions. The veteran point guard exhibited that confidence early in the second half, as he drove to his right for a strong finish and an and-one. Polite followed with his second triple, putting the Seminoles up 68-44 at the first media timeout of the half. The ‘Noles were 7-10 with 17 points in the first four minutes out of the locker room. 14 of those 17 points came from Mills and Evans.

Out of the timeout, Polite drilled another corner triple, while Mills showed off his length on the following possession, skying high to swat a corner three into the stands. Naheem McLeod then blocked a shot at the rim, leading to a John Butler slam on the other end. Despite back-to-back triples by Dingle, the Seminoles led 80-54 at the U12 media timeout.

The highlights kept coming for the ‘Noles midway through the second half. Mills crossed up a defender and made a tough layup at the basket for an and-one. Butler came up with a steal on the next possession, leading to a give-and-go between Evans and Cleveland on the break. The fast-break led to a Cleveland alley-oop slam that brought the Tucker Center to its feet as the lead climbed to 32.

With over four minutes left and up nearly forty points, green viper captains Justin Lindner and Harrison Prieto entered the game. The entrance of the two redshirt seniors brought a roar from the sold-out student section in the Tucker Center. FSU crossed the century mark as Prieto drilled a corner three.

FSU Notables:

Osborne: 18 points (high as a Seminole), 13 rebounds (high as a Seminole), 1 steal

Polite: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal

Evans: 14 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals

Mills: 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals

Fletcher: 9 points, 5 steals, 4 rebounds

Up next: Florida State will travel to Gainesville on Sunday for a 1:00 PM matchup with the Florida Gators. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. UF topped Elon on Tuesday to open its season with a victory.