Florida State basketball hosted the Mercer Bears on Monday night, in search of their first win of the season. The Seminoles have started 0-4 for the first time since 1959, hitting one of the biggest bumps in the Leonard Hamilton era. Much of dismay has to with constant offensive struggles, but the Noles don’t seem to have a clear answer on any side of the ball.
Heading into the matchup UCF transfer Darin Green Jr. led the Noles in scoring (15.8 per game) and Cam’Ron Fletcher led FSU in rebounding (8.2 per game).
The Seminoles started off slow against the Bears, trailing 13-9 just before FSU went on a run behind Fletcher. He finished the first half with 15 points on 6-8 from the field. Fletcher was extremely efficient and most importantly confident in his stroke, sinking his first three shots from beyond the arc.
After the teams were tied at about 20, Florida State hit a run that they wouldn’t look back on. They took a 10 point lead midway through the first half and later on extended that lead with a 16-2 scoring run. While Mercer was able to secure a three ball and an and-one late in the half, FSU had the momentum on their side.
Despite Fletcher’s 15 points in the first half, the help from other Noles was basically absent. Much of that had to do with a 39.5 field goal percentage from Florida State, but offensive rebounds kept them in the hunt.
Some first half stats to note include the Seminoles having five first half blocks and only three first half turnovers. Yet, the Bears ended the first on an 8-0 run.
It looked like the Noles were holding a steady lead in the second half, but they were unable to guard the penetration from the Bears. Mercer cut the deficit down to 52-48 and Hamilton elected to call a timeout with 12:51 left in the second half. The Bears were on a 16-10 run to start the half.
Mercer took their first lead of the second half in the midst of a 12-0 run. The Bears were up 53-52 with under 12 minutes remaining. The Seminoles simply didn’t have an answer for the Bears offense, letting them get in the paint with an open invitation.
Florida State took their lead back with incredible energy on both sides of the ball from Fletcher and Matthew Cleveland. The Noles led 62-60 with 7:29 remaining.
Naheem McLeod was huge for the Seminoles to close out the game... no pun intended. Mercer had a difficult time getting into the paint for the first time in the contest, due to McLeod’s presence. He was also able to connect with Cleveland on multiple occasions on offense, helping him record eight points on 4-6 from the field, to go along with five blocks on the other end.
The Noles were finally pulling away with a win when they forced a scoring drought from the Bears for close to three minutes, leading the way 73-66 with one minute remaining. It was the confidence on the offensive end that helped the Seminoles continue to put the ball in the basket, which translated to other side of the the floor.
It was a game of tag for the Mercer Bears when they were desperate to put the ball in the basket and Florida State when on an unanswered run. The Noles took down the Bears 81-72 behind 23 points from Fletcher and nine rebounds to pair with five blocks for McLeod.
Next game: The Seminoles head to an ESPN Invitational in Orlando this week, set to play their first game on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. ET. The game will be featured on ESPN2. They’re currently favored against the Siena Saints.