Florida State men's basketball still sluggish, but hangs on for 59-54 win over Tulane
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton hoped to see sharper execution from his team coming off a poor finish to Sunday’s loss to rival Florida.
While the Seminoles did show some of their signature defensive play, some of the same offensive struggles they endured down the stretch in Gainesville showed up in stretches Wednesday night during their home matchup against Tulane.
Still, led by 13 points from Caleb Mills and 11 points from Cam’Ron Fletcher, FSU did just enough to hold off the Green Wave and pick up a 59-54 victory at the Tucker Civic Center.
The Seminoles (2-1) could never put together that extended offensive surge to completely pull away, but its defense inside and on the perimeter made the difference. Tulane (1-2) shot just 5 for 27 (18.5 percent) in the second half and 29.1 percent for the game. The Green Wave also cooled off from distance in the second half, shooting 3 for 15 from 3-point range after making 6 of its first 11 triples.
The Seminoles’ size proved too much for Tulane as FSU took advantage outscoring the Green Wave 28-12 in the paint and outrebounded them 42-38.
But FSU didn't fare much better in what was a grueling struggle in the second half and ended with both teams scoring only 22 points over the final 20 minutes.
"At the end we had the vets in and we know how to win games like this," said Malik Osborne, who finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. "We just know we have to crank it up to another level defensively and that's what we did to get the win."
Tulane pulled to within three points three times until Fletcher drove and dunked, drawing a foul and hitting his free throw to start a 7-0 run on three consecutive dunks including a beautiful alley oop pass from RayQuan Evans to Fletcher to give the Seminoles a 56-46 edge.
"There's no doubt Cam'Ron has a lot of potential to make plays for us," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He didn't stop giving effort. He got rebounds and hit a big jump shot and made some big plays down the stretch. I was very pleased with how our inexperienced guys seemed more relaxed tonight than our veterans."
RayQuan Evans did have a solid game on the defensive end with four of FSU’s nine blocks overall.
FSU got off to a sloppy start to the game committing 10 turnovers over the first 16 minutes of the game, but committed only five over the remainder of the contest.
It’s clear the adjustment period for a team replacing four key rotation players from a year ago continues.
"We’re in a development stage right now and that’s understandable," Hamilton said. "We’ve always had a deep rotation but never this many guys that need to be consistent for us to be successful. There is some indecision right now and that’s what happens when you have a lot of first year players. We’ll work our way out of it."
Matchup zone gave FSU fits on the offensive end
Despite protecting the ball better, FSU shot worse in the second half 34.6 percent than it did during the first 20 minutes (44.8 percent). The Seminoles were also frequently out-hustled to loose balls in the first half.
The Green Wave’s zone defense frustrated the Seminoles and led to some of their early turnover issues as well.
Hamilton said he is still experimenting with different lineups and rotations, which is contributing to some of the struggles with consistency on the offensive end.
“I thought their zone made us somewhat lethargic and created some indecision on our part," Hamilton said. "We made just enough plays to win. I thought our defense got better in the second half but we didn’t shoot a whole lot better.
"We were able to create some open looks, but we just couldn't knock them down...It's very clear we're not a relaxed team right now...We just hope we can continue to keep winning while we're trying to put it together."
Point guard struggles
A big reason the Seminoles miss Scottie Barnes so far has been the shaky play from their point guards. RayQuan Evans, who handled some of that responsibility last season along with Barnes and Anthony Polite, finished with two assists and four turnovers, and just two points on 1 for 8 shooting.
Evans finished with six points, three assists and two turnovers in Sunday’s loss to the Gators.
While Polite finished with 10 rebounds, he didn’t fare much better in the scoring and distribution departments, totaling three assists and three turnovers while scoring just six points on 2 for 7 shooting including an 0 for 5 output from 3.
"He’s a very conscientious youngster and great teammate and has an unselfish spirit. He seems to always find a way to come up when you need him," Hamilton said. "I thought that was his competitive spirit. He wasn’t having a great offensive night but he showed up on the defensive end with his blocks and his ability to contain the dribble and give us good leadership on the defensive end."
Tanor Ngom played for the first time this season after suffering a concussion. Ngom played only seven minutes, but finished with three points and two rebounds.
Florida State will be back on the road, but not too far from home when it plays the first of two games on back-to-back days in the Jacksonville Classic. The Seminoles will face Loyola Marymount on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at UNF Arena in Jacksonville. Depending on the outcome of that game, FSU will then face either SMU or Missouri on Monday at a time to be determined. Both games will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
Reach Andre Fernandez at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @FernandezAndreC.
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