Newark, N.J. – Florida State senior guard Terance Mann wore two different numbers in Saturday’s matchup against Connecticut in the Never Forget Tribute Classic, and delivered in both.
Mann propelled the 11th-ranked Seminoles (8-1) to a 79-71 victory over the Huskies (7-3), in a game that saw him wear his recognizable No. 14 jersey in the first half, and switch to No. 41 after it was ripped.
The Lowell, Mass. native provided a veteran steady hand throughout a physical contest, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds, with 16 points and six rebounds coming in the second half.
It was the Seminoles’ first win over the Huskies since the 1997-1998 season.
With 17:26 remaining, Mann drew a shooting foul in the paint, connecting on both free throws. His second free throw was his 1,000th career point; the 47th player in school history to reach the landmark.
In a back-and-forth first half where momentum was hard to come by, FSU ‘s reserves shined brightest. Graduate guard David Nichols and redshirt sophomore forward Mfiondu Kabengele scored 13 apiece as FSU’s bench totaled 30 of the Noles’ 39 first half point.
Kabengele finished the contest with 15 points and three rebounds before fouling out late in the second half.
Nichols transferred into FSU from Albany with the idea of immediately contributing to a team looking to clinch an NCAA tournament birth for the third straight season. In his past three games, he has been all as advertised.
The Chicago, Ill. native totaled an FSU career-high 16 points and four rebounds, shooting five of seven from the field. He also knocked down a career-high three 3-pointers.
Nichols has averaged 11.3 points in his last three contests, shooting 55-percent from the floor and 60-precent from beyond the 3-point arc..
The Noles missed six of their first seven shots and committed two turnovers in the first five minutes and trailed, 10-3.
With 11:53 to play in the first half, redshirt freshman forward RaiQuan Gray hit a jumper, and sophomore guard M.J. Walker followed with a transition layup, giving the Noles their first lead of the game, 17-16.
Trailing 31-28, the Noles went on an 11-2 run over the final two minutes of the half – embodying their “18-strong” motto – with five different players contributing to the scoring run.
Contributions from throughout the roster have been coach Leonard Hamilton’s calling card and deemed to be true Saturday at the Prudential Center. All nine Seminoles who entered the game scored a basket, with eight earning at least 17 minutes of action.
Entering the second half up 39-33, the veteran-laden FSU team received a spark for senior center Christ Koumadje, who dominated the paint with seven rebounds and a season-high four blocks in the second half alone. Koumadje finished with seven points, a career-high 11 rebounds and four blocks.
With the Noles cruising efficiently through much of the second half, the Huskies refused to make it an easy. After trailing 68-56 at the under-six minute timeout, UConn rallied to make it 72-67 after a layup by redshirt sophomore guard Alterique Gilbert.
Nichols and junior guard Trent Forrest were clutch in the closing stretch, each going three of four from the free throw line in the games’ final minute to clinch the victory.
With a win over UConn, the Seminoles add yet another resume-building win.
With wins over Florida, Purdue, LSU and UConn in its first nine games, the Seminoles have positioned themselves quite nicely through the seasons first month.
Florida State will try and keep its memorable start going when it returns to action at home on Dec. 17 against Southeast Missouri State.