TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) — After a 28-game home winning streak came to an end earlier this week, No. 23 Florida State began a new one by responding with a 101-90 win over Syracuse. Treating the 10,938 in attendance to a double-overtime game, the Noles moved to 13-4 overall (2-3 ACC) and earned a welcome victory. In the process, they learned a few things about themselves:
With 14:46 left in the second half, Braian Angola looked up at the scoreboard and caught himself in a déjà vu moment. The Noles, who led 31-21 at halftime, were down 36-35 to the Orange.
“At that moment, I was just trying to tell the guys to stay together,” Angola said. “We knew they would make a run and they did, but we just made sure keep fighting and keep punching.”
The same issues that hindered FSU in Wednesday’s loss to Louisville were present against Syracuse during a stretch that saw the Orange extend its lead to as much 45-38 with 11:53 left in the second half. Turnovers, missed shots and late rotations on defense were far too familiar to the game three days prior that ended in a tough loss.
Not this time, not on this team’s watch.
“We couldn’t have a pity party, we kept chopping the wood,” Phil Cofer said. “We dug deep and kept making sure we communicated that we would be alright.”
“We started to hit some shots and we gained more confidence,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton added. “The body language of our players, the level of communication increased. They elevated themselves (in that moment).”
Trailing by multiple baskets throughout the middle part of the second half, the Noles went on a 11-3 run aided by three triples and eventually re-took the lead at 57-55 on a deep bomb by PJ Savoy with 5:51 left in the game.
In the second overtime, the Noles went on an 11-2 run to start the period on their way to outscoring the Orange 19-8 in those five minutes.
“Sometimes you need games like that to challenge you to reach deep down and overcome some challenges,” Hamilton said.
“I did not see anyone with their heads down or looking too fatigued due to the extended minutes.”
Koumadje makes his mark
After missing 11 games due to a foot injury, Christ Koumadje made his return against Miami last weekend in Coral Gables notching five points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes of action.
The FSU coaching staff has been attentive to working the big 7-4 center back gradually, but against Syracuse,the junior broke out when his team needed him most. A career-high 23 points was combined with eight rebounds (six offensive) in 35 minutes of action.
“It was tough (to be out), it was more mental, but I just kept my head up,” Koumadje said following the game. “Sitting and watching the game allows you to see what everyone else has been doing wrong and you can correct them and yourself.”
Koumadje scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime periods, much of it coming when the Noles needed him down the stretch of a tight game. The big man did most of his damage on put backs in the paint and on alley-oops as FSU attempted to dissect the Syracuse zone.
“I wanted to control the baseline and make myself open (for passes),” Koumadje said on his role in attacking a 2-3 zone. “I thought I did a good job of posting up and crashing the offensive glass, keeping the other big men in foul trouble.”
“Christ being dominant in the paint is a big key for us,” Cofer added. “We’ve been lacking in rebounding at times this season without him and he’s stepped for us now that he’s back.”
Koumadje went to the free-throw line 10 times during the contest, making five. He also added four blocks.
The Orange’s big 7-2 center, Paschal Chukwu, fouled out of the game, as did two other Syracuse players.
Noles ready to play on short turnaround
There are few easy games, if any, in the ACC.
On any given night, any team, especially on their home floor, is dangerous. As Florida State treks north to play Boston College on Monday evening (7 p.m., ESPNU), they’ll do so on just two days of rest. Hamilton and his staff have a plan in place to prepare for the short break as FSU looks for its third conference win.
“We’ll walk through (our game plan), our game preparation will be more mental. We will not expend very much energy at all,” Hamilton said. “We’ll have mandatory treatments with cold tubs and other things that can rejuvenate the muscles.”
The double-overtime game against Syracuse added extra wear on the legs of the Seminoles, which means FSU will count on the whole roster to contribute Monday night in Chestnut Hill.
“We’ll have to probably sub some guys early and get more minutes for guys like M.J. (Walker), Mfiondu (Kabengele) and Brandon Allen, guys who didn’t get as many minutes tonight,” Hamilton said. “They’ll need to be ready, because there will be some factors that may give us fatigue.”
The Eagles are 12-6 on the season (2-3 ACC) with wins over then-No. 1 Duke and Wake Forest this year. A 10-1 home record, with only a close loss to No. 19 Clemson, means Boston College has been a tough out on its home floor.
For the Noles, every game the rest of the way is crucial as they attempt to reach consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
“We’ll get some good rest and get up there tomorrow and focus on Boston College,” Angola said. “Every game is a big game for us and we’ll attack that game with the same mentality.
“We need to start getting some wins.”