TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It would be easy to say that Dwayne Bacon picked up right where he left off Saturday afternoon, in the first game of his sophomore season.
But that might not be giving Bacon enough credit.
Florida State’s leading scorer a year ago, Bacon returned for another year at FSU to improve his game and better prepare himself for a future in professional basketball.
Tops on his to-do list: reworking his jump shot. And Bacon’s efforts were obvious on Saturday, when he scored 23 points – including 12 via the 3-point shot – to lift FSU to an 88-67 victory over Charleston Southern at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Florida State is 1-0 for the fifth straight year and the 14th time in 15 seasons under coach Leonard Hamilton.
“Dwayne Bacon is a special player,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “His ability to drive the ball, get to a spot and elevate is incredible.”
Bacon shot 7 of 14 from the field and 4 of 6 from beyond the arc while also grabbing a game-high nine rebounds.
Most impressive to Radebaugh was the way Bacon drove to his left, pulled up behind a ball screen and drained a 3-pointer early in the second half.
“That’s something, now,” Radebaugh said. “If he shoots like that from the perimeter, that just opens up a whole new world for him.”
And also for his teammates, who on Saturday saw the benefit of defenses paying so much attention to Bacon.
Junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes (12 points, seven assists) and freshman Jonathan Isaac (10 points, three rebounds) joined Bacon in double-figures, while each of the 11 Seminoles to play Saturday scored at least one basket.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Bacon said. “If I draw a lot of attention and other guys are open, then it gives them the opportunity to hit shots.”
Isaac, a 6-10 forward and a prep All-American, pushed through a tentative beginning and loudly announced his presence by throwing down an alley-oop from Rathan-Mayes late in the first half.
By the time he had finished, Isaac scored his 10 points in about as exciting a fashion as possible: two alley-oop dunks and two 3-pointers.
“(First-game jitters), that’s to be expected. I thought all of them were a little tight,” Hamilton said. “That means they really care. They’re conscious about wanting to do well. That’s the kind of conscientious person that (Isaac) is. He’s unselfish, he’s got a good spirit. He’s a great teammate.
“I think he’ll be just fine.”
Charleston Southern actually gave the Seminoles a test in the early goings and built a 17-12 lead while Hamilton tried out a few different lineup combinations.
FSU, however, quickly pulled away with a 20-4 run that gave the Seminoles their first double-digit lead.
Thanks in large part to some sharp shooting, the Buccaneers later whittled their deficit down to four points but could get no closer.
CSU made just seven of its 25 3-point attempts, but connected on several in spurts, including a run of three straight early in the second half.
“Our execution defensively left a little to be desired,” Hamilton said. “It wasn’t because of lack of effort. I just think there were some things that they were doing to us … that we weren’t very effective at (defending).”
The good news is that Florida State found some early-season kinks to work through while still cruising to a 21-point win.
The Seminoles, however, will have to learn from it quickly. They’ll host Iona – an NCAA tournament last season – on Tuesday night, and they’ve got home games the following Friday and Sunday as well.
“This game will be really good for us to go back and learn, dissect it and hopefully we’ll be a little better,” Hamilton said. “We’re going to need it with the teams we have coming in.”