TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Making his first start in two seasons, senior Jarquez Smith wasted no time setting the tone for Florida State’s most lopsided victory of the season, Tuesday night’s 98-49 shellacking of Southern Miss.
After rejecting a Michael Ramey 3-point attempt on the Golden Eagles first shot of the night – the 100th of his career – Smith saved the ball from going out of bounds. Smith’s reward for the effort was Dwayne Bacon’s assist for an uncontested 3-pointer to begin the onslaught.
Sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers around one from Bacon, Smith and the Seminoles (8-1) ran off to a 9-2 start and were never threatened by the over-matched Golden Eagles (3-4).
“That whole sequence felt great,” said Smith, whose season-high 14 points was his most productive offensive outing in two seasons. “I was just trying to get the offense going. Tonight is going to give me a big boost, especially the confidence. I know when I hit those two 3s and got that block it gave the team a lot of energy and from that point on we just built on it.”
On a night when Bacon was the lone usual suspect among scoring contributors, finishing with 13 points, the Seminoles received a career-high 27 points from sophomore junior college transfer PJ Savoy. Playing in just his third game following a preseason injury – his first at home – Savoy was responsible for seven of FSU’s 14 3-pointers, which ties for the sixth-most in program history.
PJ has not had an opportunity to show what he’s capable of doing,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We’ve all known he’s a really, really good shooter. I think you all saw a little bit of what I’ve been talking about.”
With forwards Jonathan Isaac and Phil Cofer unavailable, redshirt junior Brandon Allen made the most of early-game minutes, contributing a career-high 10 points aided by a pair of 3-pointers.
“The coaches have been persistently telling me, ‘Stay ready, keep working hard and keep your head up, You’ll get your chance,’” Allen said. “It was just a lot of fun. It felt really good getting in early. It was only a 10-point lead and we were trying to extend the lead.”
Allen’s runner near the midway mark of the first half began an 11-0 run, pushing the Seminoles’ lead to 21 points.
The Seminoles led 48-26 at the half, their largest midway margin of the season, as the Golden Eagles missed 20 of their first 30 shot attempts.
“In the three years that I’ve been at Southern Miss, they are the best team we’ve played,” said Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler. “This [FSU] team has a chance to be really, really good. I thought our guys tried but their pressure just ate us alive.
“We never got started and they got to the top of the hill fast and started going downhill quick.”
The second half featured more of the same at both ends for the Noles as Savoy heated up offensively and the defense continued to overwhelm FSU’s former Metro Conference rivals, who were making their first visit to the Donald L. Tucker Center since Feb. 26, 1991.
There was nothing nostalgic about the second half for Southern Miss, which turned the ball over 12 times on the way to 20 for the game and shot just 27 percent from the floor after intermission. Over the last four games, FSU’s opponents are shooting just 29 percent (71-of-242) from the floor.
“I was pleased with our effort,” Hamilton said. “We won a game we were supposed to win.”
Playing the second of four games in an eight-day stretch, Hamilton effectively managed his team’s minutes as only three players logged 20 or more.
“We moved the ball; made the extra pass,” Hamilton said, after his team dished out 23 assists on 36 field goals. “I thought we played tremendously unselfish. You like to see that type of chemistry developing with your team this early in the season.”
And that was evident from the start, thanks to the early play of Smith and those who followed his lead.
“We’ve been looking Quez to give us that spark,” Allen said of his veteran teammate. “He’s been coming off the bench and not quite giving us the impact that we thought he should, and maybe giving him that start tonight will get him jump-started. You could see it with our whole team…It shows a lot about our team, how we root for each other and we’re all in it together.”
Smith’s hook shot in the lane midway through the second half began a 14-0 FSU run as the Seminoles pushed their lead to 84-41 before closing the night with five 3-pointers over the final five minutes of the 51-point win.
The Seminoles’ next opportunity to build on their four-game winning streak will come Thursday at 9 p.m. when Nicholls State visits in the lead-up to Sunday’s visit from Florida.