TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s two best hopes for the future helped extend the Seminoles’ present season for at least one more game.
Behind 44 combined points from the freshman combo of Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley, FSU cruised to an 84-74 win over Davidson in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
The Seminoles visit Valparaiso, an 84-73 winner over Texas Southern, in the Thursday’s second round.
“I feel very fortunate that we were able to come away with a victory tonight,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Because this team (Davidson) is a very good basketball team. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit for making us work to get this victory.”
Both teams labored through a sloppy first half that saw the Davidson shoot just 32.1 percent from the field, and FSU a not-much-better 37.5 percent.
With a 30-26 halftime score, the game appeared to be headed for a low-scoring, defense-heavy conclusion.
But Bacon and Beasley flipped that script.
Bacon scored 19 of his 24 points, and Beasley 16 of his 21, in the second half.
The two helped the Seminoles get some separation, and they effectively sealed the game when Bacon grabbed a defensive rebound, weaved through the Wildcats’ defense and dished to Beasley, who then finished the play with a thunderous dunk.
That extended FSU’s lead to 69-57 and brought the 2,496 fans in attendance to their feet.
“Those guys are just growing up. They’re getting better,” Hamilton said. “They made their shots. They made their free throws. … They had good shot selection. I thought our guys did a very good job of getting them the ball.
Added Davidson coach Bob McKillop: “They’re pretty darn big. They’re pretty darn athletic. They’re spoken about in NBA circles as being future NBA players. So they’re really good.”
Bacon and Beasley weren’t the only ones to make life difficult for the Wildcats.
The Seminoles enjoyed a big size advantage, and used it to score 48 points in the paint (compared to just 24 for Davidson) and finish with a 44-28 edge on the glass.
Every Seminole who played Tuesday night grabbed at least one rebound, with Beasley coming just one shy of a double-double.
And forward Jarquez Smith continued his recent tear, posting nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes of work.
“We just did all we could,” Bacon said. “Coach was telling everybody to drive – everybody that wanted to drive. So we just took it upon ourselves to drive and get easy baskets.”
Meanwhile, FSU bounced back from a leaky defensive performance last week against Virginia Tech and had what Hamilton called one of their best outings of the year.
Davidson’s top scorer, Jack Gibbs, finished with 17 points, but much of that came late in the second half after the game had been decided.
He spent most of the second half stuck on just three points.
“We tried to get the ball out of his hands as much as we could, and it worked out,” Bacon said. “(Devon) Bookert and ‘X’ (Xavier Rathan-Mayes) did a great job on him, just stopping him and slowing him down.”