TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Make it two for two over the Big Ten for the Florida State men’s basketball team.
Three days removed from a 72-61 victory over Illinois, the Seminoles doubled up with a 75-67 win against Minnesota on Monday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Florida State’s sixth win of the season is also its first in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since 2007-08.
“There was a lot of pride on the line,” said sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon, who led FSU with 18 points. “We haven’t won an ACC/Big Ten Challenge in (nine) years … and we wanted to just come out and defend our home court.”
Since preseason practice, Hamilton has praised his team’s depth and said that it would often be the key to its success.
The Seminoles made believers out of the Golden Gophers on Monday night, as they used 12 different players, seven of whom played at least 13 minutes.
It helped FSU turn what was a close contest at halftime – 33-31 in favor of Minnesota – into a lopsided affair with about five minutes to go in the game.
“They’re a big, strong, tough team,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “They wear you out.”
Both teams might have been a little worn out after a first half that featured 28 foul calls and took more than an hour to finish.
That pace – or lack thereof – prevented either team from finding much rhythm or flow, and led to chants of “Let them play,” from the 5,993 fans in attendance.
“I thought we fouled an awful lot tonight,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I don’t think we did anything intentionally. I just thought we were making adjustments to the way the game was being officiated.”
The Seminoles, however, broke through in the second half with two quick baskets from Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
Those buckets helped turned the tide and, a few moments later, FSU swung the momentum for good when Christ Koumadje blocked a shot so hard that it traveled down the floor to Bacon, who finished off a heavy dunk that sent the crowd to its feet and extended the Seminoles’ lead to 13.
FSU built that lead to as much as 19 points before sputtering a bit while trying to run out the clock.
Minnesota finished on a 16-5 run to provide the final margin.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for (Florida State),” Pitino said. “Coach Hamilton does a good job of just forcing you to make plays, kind of taking you out of your offense. We got a little bit desperate and got a little bit desperate and then got beat off the bounce.”
Of the 12 Seminoles to log game action, only Bacon and freshman Jonathan Isaac played more than 30 minutes.
Isaac added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the second double-double of his young career.
“I was especially proud of those two guys,” Hamilton said of Bacon and Isaac. “In the first half we were trying to encourage Dwayne to be a little bit more aggressive, but I was very pleased with his savvy. He never forced a shot. He moved the ball. When he had his opportunities, he took advantage of them.
“Jonathan, I thought, exerted himself very well in the second half.”
The Seminoles made 43 percent of their shots from the field despite finishing 2 of 16 from 3-point range.
And the enjoyed one of their better defensive efforts of the season, limiting the Golden Gophers to just 19 of 59 (32.2 percent) shooting.
Hamilton said that FSU’s defensive prowess helped spark the Seminoles’ offensive dominance in the second half.
“We tried to dictate with our defense,” he said. “Trapping, rotating, not allowing them to just come down and dictate the tempo that was convenient for them.”
Monday’s win finished a stretch of three games in five days for the Seminoles, who will have the rest of this week to rest and practice before heading to Washington, D.C., to take on George Washington on Sunday.
“We knew this was going to be a very difficult stretch for us,” Hamilton said. “To come out of it 6-1 and still have a lot of room for improvement, I think, is a positive sign for our kids going forward.”