TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s been 20 years since the Florida State men’s basketball team last strung together consecutive 100-point performances.
Fueled by a 32-4 run over an eight-minute stretch in the second half, the Seminoles put that two-decade drought to bed with Sunday’s 100-71 win over Detroit Mercy.
Sophomore Dwayne Bacon scored a game-high 22 points to lead five double-figure Seminole scorers, including freshman Jonathan Isaac, who posted his first career double-double with 14 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Freshman Trent Forrest’s baseline burst and dunk finish not only capped his career-high 12-point effort, but pushed the Seminoles (4-0) to the century mark with 23 seconds to play. That followed Friday’s 100-86 win over Winthrop.
You have to go back to December of 1996 to find the last consecutive 100-point performances by the Seminoles, when they won at Jacksonville 108-84 on Dec. 14 and followed up with a 100-63 win at home against Tennessee State three days later.
Had any one of the 13 missed free throws against Iona gone down in Tuesday’s 99-78 win, the Noles would be riding their first three-game 100-point stretch since the first three games of the 1988-89 season.
Through four games the Seminoles are averaging 96.7 points a game; 18 points higher than last year’s team, which was the highest-scoring FSU squad in coach Leonard Hamilton’s 14 seasons at the helm.
While it’s unrealistic to expect the Noles to maintain that pace, there is no doubt their new-found methodology is effective.
“We’re playing downhill more,” said Hamilton, whose team is relentlessly attacking the basket, pushing the pace at every opportunity and protecting the basketball better than ever. The Noles had only eight turnovers in 79 possessions, continuing an early trend of offensive efficiency.
And still, the Noles have embraced Hamilton’s long-held commitment to defense, which has been aided by a 10-man rotation through the first four games.
Bacon credited the defense with turning Sunday’s game against the Titans (1-3), who cut a 48-35 halftime deficit to 64-56 on Chris Jenkins’ jumper with 13:13 remaining in the game. Jenkins paced the Titans (1-3) with 18 points.
“Just defense; people buying in,” Bacon said, when asked what triggered the decisive 32-4 run. “When the subs came in they picked up right where the guys that came out left off. They played to exhaustion. We got a lot of stops, a lot of kick-aheads, a lot of run-outs, dunks [and] transition shots. We just made it very easy for our offense by the way we were playing on defense.”
The run began with a Jarquez Smith putback dunk and continued with Xavier Rathan-Mayes (10 points) and Terance Mann (11) knocking down four consecutive free throws. Rathan-Mayes had nine of his points during a 4:24 scoreless stretch by the Titans, amidst of flurry of dunks and driving layups by his teammates.
By the time the Noles were finished – with 4:28 remaining – they led 96-60.
“We had a stretch there where we had six stops and we scored on all six stops,” Hamilton said.
“Our defensive execution has a ways to go, but our effort is good. Part of our plan is to continue to play as hard as we can every possession and wear our opponents down.”
Or in Sunday’s case, out. The Seminoles’ attacking style produced 78 points in the paint.
“We’re a pretty good offensive team,” Rathan-Mayes said. “We like to get out and run. That’s what we’ve been preaching along, with defense. Getting out in transition and playing open-court basketball. These games we have shown we can play at a really high pace. We’re doing what we want to and getting wins while doing it.”
Now Hamilton and the Noles will get an idea whether their new-found style will travel. FSU plays three games in five days, beginning with Thursday’s date with Temple in the opening contest of the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. That will be followed by a date with either Illinois or West Virginia, and then it comes home to meet Minnesota on Nov. 28 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“We’re a team that’s still developing,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got three games in five days coming up against higher quality opponents. I’m interested to see how we come out of that little stretch.”