Florida State basketball welcomed the Florida Gators to Tallahassee for an out-of-conference bout on Friday night. The Tucker Center was filled to the brim for the first time this season. It seemed like the Noles were finally inching away at their first win of the year, heading into halftime with a comfortable lead, but turnovers and offensive inefficiency were problems yet again. Florida State dropped its fourth game 76-67.
Player of the game: One of the only players that didn’t destroy the Noles in the second half was Darin Green Jr. who started off the game with a hot hand. He finished the contest with 14 points and two rebounds.
The Noles went with Matthew Cleveland, Caleb Mills, Cameron Corhen, Darin Green Jr. and Camron Fletcher in the starting lineup. An athletic, crafty Gators team was on the other side, looking to take down the Seminoles in the “Sunshine Showdown.”
Florida put the first point on the board with a free throw and followed that with a put-back dunk from Collin Castleton. Despite that, Florida State scored two quick points to put them up 4-3. The Seminoles found their best offensive run of the season after that spark, scoring at will in the opposing paint. FSU led 10-5 after the first timeout.
A couple Seminoles picked up fouls early in the game including Naheem McLeod, Jalen Warley, Cleveland, and Mills. The Gators were at the charity stripe way too often, putting the Noles in a tough position for the second half yet again. With 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Florida State carried a 17-11 lead.
Mills was playing phenomenal for the Noles, securing two key blocks, while feeding Corhen in the post for easy buckets. Freshman Chandler Jackson entered the game with less than nine minutes remaining, playing the first collegiate minutes of his career. FSU’s offense seem to be playing okay, but their defense was pressuring the Gators in key situations. Head coach Leonard Hamilton played a double team in the block that was extremely efficient.
When Castleton finally found an offensive rhythm he was able to find points for himself and open up gaps for shots on the perimeter. FSU led the game 26-16 with 5:41 remaining in the first half. Florida snatched their second technical foul of the game with under four minutes left. They seem to have been frustrated with foul calls, while being overly energetic to draw fire from themselves.
McLeod picked up a cheap foul late in the half, becoming the first Seminole with two fouls on the night. It looked like the Gators were creeping up on the lead, but Darin Green splashed in a three to extend the game. He hit back-to-back shots late in the half, lighting up the crowd. This resulted in a 43-26 lead heading into halftime.
The Seminoles leading scorer was Green as he shot 2-2 from distance and 4-5 from the field. He had 12 points and Cleveland had 10 to go along with six rebounds. The Noles were simply taking advantage of an abysmal performance from the Gators in a half where nothing was working.
Florida banged in the first shot of the half with a three ball. The Noles were just sloppy to start the break, with early turnovers that put UF in prime position to walk back into the game. Mills was giving up the ball like bread rolls in Thanksgiving dinner, allowing the Gators to cut the deficit down to 43-35.
FSU was up 46-41 with 16 left in the second half. Hamilton blew the whistle for the first timeout of the second half with 14:35 left. The Gators had possession of the ball down 46-45. Florida State was constantly turning the ball over with terrible offensive management. Florida was pressing the Noles through 94 feet, making them force up shots off the double team. One of the major factors toward UF’s success was them evolving how they play deny defense to give them a shot at deflecting the ball.
The Gators took their first lead since the start of the game with a floater and an and-one from Castleton. It seemed like Florida wasn’t willing to look back from this lead after finally drawing a spark. The Gators had a 59-50 lead with 10 minutes left in the game. Just when the Noles were seeing the ball fall in basket, House picked up a technical foul.
After a couple baskets scored from Mills, FSU saw the lead cut to 65-58. The Seminoles put Florida in the bonus with 4:25 left. They were jawing away at a comeback, but the momentum was too far on the Gators side. Corhen played an incredible game on offense and defense, but McLeod was hurting the Noles under the glass with unwarranted fouls and poor offense. The crowd was slowly slipping away as FSU barely showed any sign of fight.
There was nothing to show on the offensive end to battle against the Gators. Florida State had a well designed game on defense, but it’s very difficult to win a game with over 15 turnovers. The Seminoles head back to the drawing board after losing three straight games to start the season.
Next game: The Seminoles are back at home on Monday to face Mercer College at 6:30 ET. The game will be featured on the ACC Network. Florida State will look to secure their first of the season against one of their poorest opponents on schedule.