Tallahassee, FL- After losing three straight games for the first time since the 2019 season, the Florida State basketball team found their rhythm in a dominating win over Lipscomb, 97-60. This was a badly needed win that hopefully gives the time a bit of momentum as they head into the holiday break portion of the season.
FSU started the game aggressively, led by Anthony Polite, but the visitors from Nashville, Tennessee began the game doing what the do best—make threes. The Bisons (yes, the have an “s” on it) came into the contest making almost 38% on the season with four regular contributors hitting over 39%. True to form, Lipscomb hit their first four attempts from beyond the arc to take a 14-12 lead.
However, Polite continued to put on an early show. Mired in a shooting slump, Polite made his presence felt on both ends of the court. Jumping passing lanes, pushing the pace, finishing through contact, and even hitting a three, the fifth-year guard began the game scoring 12 of FSU’s first 17 points, keeping the ‘Noles in it for the first 8 minutes.
When Polite headed to the bench for a well-earned breather, another veteran stepped up to continue the momentum: Malik Osborne. Easily the most consistent player for the Seminoles this season, Osborne completed consecutive and-1 plays and then followed it up with a three-ball corner pocket. Combine that with a flurry of deflections, steals, and blocked shots from lengthy defenders like Cam’Ron Fletcher, John Butler, and Rayquan Evans and suddenly a 20-18 FSU lead ballooned up to 36-23 with 5:37 left in the half.
Fletcher added a free throw after a flagrant foul, but from there FSU’s offense hit a bit of a lull. With Caleb Mills “Hammed out” with two first half fouls and injuries mounting (Matthew Cleveland missed the game for what was only described as “medical reasons, Wyatt Wilkes left the game with what appeared to be a hand injury, Tanor Ngom still out), the Seminoles trotted out a lineup that included Harrison Prieto and Justin Lindner. It did not have a lot of success. But Osborne hit another three with a little over a minute to go and Wilkes came back in to finish a reverse layup a possession later and the ‘Noles went into halftime with a comfortable 44-28 lead.
Having blown leads in both the Syracuse and South Carolina losses, the start of the second stanza felt like a critical stretch for a Florida State team still learning how to win. Consider this game a step in the right direction. Polite continued his breakout game, draining a three from the top of the key and then followed it up with another bucket just a couple possessions later.
From there, the whole team decided to bust out of their recent slump. Freshmen John Butler made his second and third threes of the game, while fellow freshmen Jalen Warley made just his second of the season (but perhaps worth noting, they’ve both come in the last two games). Lipscomb switched to a 2-3 zone hoping to confuse the Seminoles, but to no avail. Fletcher made his first three since donning the face mask and Evans got in on the act too. By the under-12 the lead was 70-37 and the game was essentially over.
Polite was the clear leader, finishing with a career high 25 points on 10-14 shooting from the field, including 2-3 from deep. He added 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals for a fantastic all-around game. Osborne, Butler, Fletcher, and Wilkes joined Polite in double-figures, with Butler adding a career high 7 rebounds to go along with his career high 11 points.
In a vacuum, this win isn’t all that noteworthy in and of itself. With it being at home, it likely won’t be any higher than a quad three win on FSU’s tournament resume (although the 37 point margin will certainly help the computer metrics). However, for this group of players, it’s possible this was just what the doctor ordered. Their last game in the Tucker Center, a rare conference loss, the Seminoles had an all-time woeful shooting performance, and it didn’t get much better in last weekend’s loss to South Carolina. Seeing the ball go through the basket is big for a team still finding its footing and hopefully the 14-26 shooting from three-point territory is just what the doctor ordered.
The win moves FSU to 6-4 on the season. The Seminoles will look to keep the winning ways going on Saturday with a neutral site game against UCF. Tip is at 3:30.