TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The new-look Florida State men’s basketball team looks just fine.
Terance Mann took to his new role as a veteran leader with 17 points and eight rebounds, and the Seminoles had five players score in double-figures on the way to an 87-67, season-opening victory over George Washington in front of 7,455 fans at the Tucker Center.
Christ Koumadje, the 7-foot-4 center, added a career-high 14 points, seven rebounds and five blocks, and senior Phil Cofer scored 15 for FSU, which is 1-0 for the 15th time in 16 seasons under coach Leonard Hamilton.
“I thought that we showed a lot of first-game jitters at the beginning of the game,” Hamilton said. “I saw a lot of things I liked. I thought our effort was good.”
Most teams should be so lucky to have these types of jitters.
Bolstered by Mann’s versatility and a confident, aggressive effort from Koumadje, FSU claimed a double-digit lead midway through the first half and kept the Colonials (1-1) comfortably at arm’s length the rest of the way.
The Seminoles shot better than 62 percent in the first 20 minutes, and they went into the break with 50 points despite not attempting a single free throw.
“We executed the game plan very well,” said senior guard Braian Angola, who had eight points and five assists. “The way we’re running, I’m very excited to see what we look like when we clean up some of the mistakes that we have, how we’re going to be.”
The Seminoles will get their next chance to do that on Friday, when they play Fordham at the Jamaica Classic in Montego Bay.
Not that there was much to nitpick from Tuesday’s performance. Aside from a slow start to the second half – during which the Colonials outscored FSU 13-5 to cut their deficit to 10 points – the Seminoles mostly overmatched their opponents.
FSU finished with advantages in rebounding (37-31), points in the paint (52-20) and fast-break points (14-2), and the Seminoles forced the Colonials into 19 turnovers.
While George Washington heated up a bit in the second half, their lineup turned out to be a bit top-heavy. Four players scored at least 10 points – led by 18 each from Terry Nolan Jr. and Jair Bolden – but no one else scored more than three.
GWU coach Maurice Joseph said Florida State had a lot to do with that.
“Their length and athleticism, you can’t replicate that with your walk-ons in practice,” he said. “It’s something that you’ve got to face.”
FSU got contributions from plenty of fresh faces, too.
Heralded freshman M.J. Walker made a fine first impression with 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting, including a 3-for-4 mark from 3-point range. Redshirt freshman Mfiondu Kabengele scored 10 in his debut and 7-foot freshman center Ike Obiagu made the most of his time on the floor with three blocks in just seven minutes
“That shows a little bit of what (Obiagu) brings to the table from a physical standpoint,” Hamilton said. “Defensively, he’s going to be a factor in games.”
It all added up to what Hamilton believes could be a blueprint for success this season: Strong early efforts from veteran starters followed by a spark from young players coming off the bench.
If that sounds familiar, it should. The Seminoles last year built a reputation as one of the deepest teams in the country thanks to a talented group of reserves – affectionately dubbed “The Boom Squad” – that complemented the star trio of Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
Bacon, Isaac and Rathan-Mayes are gone, but the philosophy might still be in place.
“I think that’s kind of what we’re going to be all year long,” Hamilton said. “We’re going to have guys that have the ability to come in and make a difference in games.”