TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) — Senior M.J. Walker scored a game-high 17 points and No. 18 Florida State (1-0) opened its 2020-21 season with an 86-58 win against North Florida (0-4) at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The Seminoles maintained a steady lead throughout the game in winning its 24th consecutive game at home. The win was the Seminoles’ sixth consecutive in the series against North Florida.
The win upped Florida State’s record at the Tucker Center to 66-3 since a victory over Notre Dame on February 7, 2015. The Seminoles have won at home at a 95.6 percent winning percentage in the last four seasons.
The Seminoles dominated the first half, as they closed it out with a 36-21 lead over the Ospreys. The Seminoles utilized eight players throughout the first half who all played eight or more minutes and had 12 players play within the first seven minutes. Before the halftime buzzer, North Florida was able to close in on their deficit with back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore Jose Placer.
Florida State out-rebounded the Ospreys 21-12 the first half. The Seminoles also had six steals in the first half and 12 steals overall, surpassing their average of 7.9 steals per game last year.
Florida State continued to roll to being the second half on a 3-pointer by senior M.J. Walker, extending the Seminole’s lead to 39-21. The Ospreys responded, closing the gap to 58-47 in the middle of the second half. This was the smallest gap between the teams throughout the game. The Ospreys leading scorer, Dorian James, totaled 13 points and six rebounds.
The Seminoles expanded their lead to a game-high 30 late in the second half.
Walker finished with 17 points, four rebounds, and two assists. He added to his total of 132 career 3-point shots made. Walker was recently named to the prestigious Jerry West Award watch list, which is annually presented to the top shooting guard in college basketball. This is his second time on the watch list for this award; his first was during his freshman season of 2018.
Freshman Scottie Barnes made his Seminoles’ debut with eight points, six rebounds, and six assists. He led the team in rebounds and assists, and made a show-stopping behind-the-back dunk near the end of the second half. The five-star recruit’s much-anticipated debut was pushed back a week after the postponement of the Garner-Webb game that was supposed to open the season for the Noles.
Barnes was named as one of the 20 candidates for the prestigious Bob Cousy award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top point guard in college basketball. He also earned spots on the Naismith and Wooden Award Watch Lists, both prominent awards that are presented to the top college basketball player in the nation.
Redshirt junior RaiQuan Gray and sophomore Balsa Koprivica also had notable performances against North Florida. Gray had four steals, coming just one short his career high of five against Murray State in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. He also added five rebounds to the Seminoles’ total of 42 against the Ospreys, who totaled 27 rebounds. With a history of dominating against the Ospreys, Koprivica also had a good performance with 13 points and five rebounds. He also scored 15 points when the two teams met last season.
Reigning ACC Coach of the Year, Leonard Hamilton, has won his 24th opener in the last 26 seasons. Tonight’s win also extends the Seminoles’ second longest streak in the nation of 39 consecutive non-conference home games.
The Seminoles look to extend their home game winning streak with a home matchup on Wednesday, December 9th against Indiana at 9:15 p.m. in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The game will be aired on ESPN2.