TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Selfless basketball is one of the cornerstones of Florida State basketball under coach Leonard Hamilton, and it was on full display throughout Wednesday night’s 88-66 victory over Wake Forest.
The Seminoles’ path to a sixth consecutive victory was paved with generosity. FSU was credited with 21 assists – its second-highest total this season – on 35 field goals.
“What our feeling has always been is, ‘Try to play as hard as you can and as unselfish as you can,’” Hamilton said. “We don’t want guys being passive. Tonight I thought we were locked in, moving the ball, making the extra pass and trying to create for each other. You like to see your team developing that type of chemistry this time of year.”
There was a lot to like about the performance from the 17th-ranked Noles (19-5, 7-4 ACC), who shot 56 percent from the floor (38 percent from 3-point range) and enjoyed their most efficient assist-to-turnover performance (plus-12) of the season.
The recipient of many of those helpers was 7-foot-4 senior Christ Koumadje, who scored 20 points of 10-of-12 shooting and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds for his first career double-double, logging a season-high 24 minutes of action.
Koumadje, who was scoreless in Saturday’s overtime win over Louisville and had not reached double-figures since Dec. 19 against North Florida, was ready for a game plan that called for an inside-out attack against the Demon Deacons (9-14, 2-9).
That point of emphasis followed the Louisville game when the Noles were credited with just 14 post touches on 85 possessions.
“Tonight he took it upon himself to be a little more aggressive around the basket and our guys were looking for him a little bit more,” Hamilton added.
“A lot of times one of our [centers] would have to rotate over on dribble penetration and they were able to throw the ball up top to the big fella and he did a really good job of making himself available and finishing around the basket,” Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said.
FSU led 38-31 at the half and were trading baskets with the Deacs to start the second half before Koumadje’s slam finish off a nifty Terance Mann baseline drive and dish, sparked a game-changing, 17-4 run. He added a hook shot in that surge, capping a 10-of-12 shooting performance as the Noles built a 64-45 lead with 8:44 remaining and were never threatened.
Koumadje exited to a rousing ovation from the partisan Tucker Center crowd of 7,806 in the midst of the decisive run.
“The coaches always preach that the quality of our depth is what is really keeping us going,” Koumadje said afterward. “Every night it’s going to be somebody different. If it’s not your time, you’ve got to cheer for your brother. When it’s your time you know your brother is going to cheer for you. We just stay engaged. Everybody on this team is very genuine people. They’re happy for you. I’m happy for them when it’s going for them. They’re happy for me when it’s going for me.”
FSU’s big fella wasn’t the only one enjoying the night. Phil Cofer (13 points) was the only other starter in double figures, but the Noles weren’t shy on contributors.
While super-reserve Mfiondu Kabengele contributed nine points and seven rebounds in just 13 minutes, fellow subs PJ Savoy and Devin Vassell combined for 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. FSU’s reserves outscored the Deacs’ bench 41-16 and also received five assists in 11 minutes from David Nichols and five points from Anthony Polite, who drained his first 3-pointer in 13 games.
“Our plan was to get a few more guys in the game because we have three games in seven days and we had some guys come in – Devin, Savoy and Polite – that gave us a good lift along with [RaiQuan] Gray. We’re going to need them so we can stay fresh as we go down these stretch of games.”
The red-hot Noles begin a three-game road swing Saturday at Georgia Tech, where they can match the 2011-2012 ACC Championship team with a seventh consecutive league win. Road games at Clemson and North Carolina follow.