No. 19 Florida State basketball opens season with rout of Penn
It wasn't a sure thing that Malik Osborne would be available for Florida State basketball's season-opening game.
He missed the Seminoles' second scrimmage last Friday with the flu and was questionable to play in the days leading up to FSU's season opener Wednesday.
In the end, Osborne was able to play after he got just two practices in upon his return. And it's a very good thing for the Seminoles he was able to.
Despite a limited week of practice leading up to the game, Osborne had the best game of his FSU career as the Seminoles (1-0) ran away with a 105-70 win over the Penn Quakers (0-1) in front of a near-capacity crowd of 9,746 at the Tucker Civic Center Wednesday night.
"I told the coaching staff and my teammates, 'Come anything, I am going to be on that court,'" Osborne said after the win.
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"I'm going to make something happen. I don't care what I've got to do. I'm going to on the court...I actually had two days of practice and I just made sure to push everything, my conditioning so I wouldn't really missed a beat when I came back."
By halftime, Osborne had 17 points, the most he's scored in his FSU career. By the opening minutes of the second half, he had grabbed his 10th rebound, securing his fourth career double-double.
He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, playing very sparingly in the second half as FSU quickly built up a significant lead.
"He has a confidence now that he's been through the program, he understands our system, he understands our culture," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said of Osborne.
"Verbally, emotionally and physically, he's invested and he's displaying that with going hard every possession. Going hard after the rebounds, playing great defense without fouling...He seems to be connecting the dots. He realizes this is his senior year and I think he wants to leave making an impression."
The Quakers were able to at least somewhat hang around for the majority of the second half, trailing 51-39 at halftime. But FSU opened the second half on a quick 24-5 run, pushing the lead to 31 points just over five minutes into the half.
From there, the Seminoles coasted to a comfortable win, their eighth season-opening victory in the last nine years.
Somehow, this was FSU's first-ever win over an Ivy League opponent. The Seminoles had lost each of their first four games against teams from the conference before Wednesday's decisive victory.
Veterans lead the way
With so many newcomers on this year's FSU team, it was a night of debuts.
Six Seminoles made their debuts against Penn and all of them scored at least three points. But it was a night where the experienced veterans led the way for the Seminoles.
Along with Osborne, two of the other three FSU players that reached double figures were redshirt seniors.
Redshirt senior shooting guard Anthony Polite racked up 17 points and six rebounds, making 3 of his 4 three-point attempts. Redshirt senior point guard RayQuan Evans added 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.
"We got tremendous leadership from the returning guys and I was pleased with the effort and the soundness that our first-year players gave us," Hamilton said.
The one new FSU player that made an especially large impact was Houston transfer guard Caleb Mills. He entered FSU with high expectations after he was tabbed as the AAC Preseason Player of the Year last year before leaving just a few games into the season.
He definitely lived up to those expectations Wednesday, scoring 14 points with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in his FSU debut.
"My freshman year at UH, all I did was score, score, score. I didn't get any assists. I tried to rebound. Coming into this system, you do it for something bigger than yourself, the team," Mills said.
"I want to play good for my team, not just myself. So that's why it's kind of easier."
Five-star freshman Matthew Cleveland and Kentucky transfer Cam'Ron Fletcher each scored nine, but the FSU bench accounted for just 38 of FSU's 105 points on a night that was led by the starting lineup.
FSU defense hounds the Quakers
While Leonard Hamilton's offense has changed over the last decade at FSU, the commitment to intense defense has remained a constant.
Hamilton said he was more confident in his team's defensive ability than its offense entering the start of the season and this proved to be the case Wednesday night.
It bears mentioning that Penn didn't play last season due to Ivy League rules and was playing its first game together in over 20 months. But FSU's length and athleticism disturbed the Quakers' offense all game long.
FSU forced 26 Penn turnovers which it turned into 37 points. 16 of those turnovers came in the first half and led to 23 points off turnovers.
The Seminoles' chaotic defense led to 15 steals. Eight different Seminoles had at least one steal and Fletcher led the way with five steals in his FSU debut. Evans added three steals while Mills added two.
"I was beyond proud, beyond impressed, honestly," Osborne said of the defense.
"Not just the new transfers coming in, but just the young guys as well, being able to get after it. They just bought into our defensive scheme, buying into who we are as a team, who we are as a culture. We just get after people."
On the other end of the court, FSU did very well in protecting the ball, committing just 11 turnovers. Four of those 11 were committed by the walk-ons in the closing minutes of the game.
FSU has little time this season to prepare for a rivalry showdown that awaits next in its first road game of the season.
The Seminoles take on Florida (1-0) Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Stephen O'Connell Center in Gainesville. FSU is looking for its eighth straight win over the Gators.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Reach Curt Weiler at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.
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