TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Playing at home for the first time 12 days, the 19th-ranked Florida State basketball team took the better part of 25 minutes to find its groove Monday night against Charleston Southern.
Coming off Saturday’s one-point loss to Oklahoma State in Sunrise, Fla., the Noles used a 25-7 run to start the second half to shake the Buccaneers and record their 26th consecutive victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center, 69-58.
“We’re still trying to find that magic level of consistency on how to execute offensively and defensively,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said, after the Noles moved to 10-1 on the year.
The Noles found some holiday magic with a virtually flawless start to the second half, turning a two-point lead into a 20-point bulge which the Buccaneers never seriously threatened. Freshman big man Ike Obiagu scored eight points, while Phil Cofer and Terance Mann contributed six each during the second half opening salvo.
FSU spread the wealth offensively by moving the ball and sharing it in spirit of the season, registering eight assists on their first 10 field goals of the second half.
“We shot almost 70 percent [in the second half] because we had a lot of possessions where we had five, six, seven, eight or nine passes and we got high percentage shots,” Hamilton said.
That wasn’t the case in the first half, which more closely resembled the early struggles against Tulane and the effort in the 71-70 loss to Oklahoma State.
What undoubtedly was a to-the-point halftime discussion in the Noles’ locker room clearly hit home.
“We know we have a great team of great shooters and moving the ball side-to-side with six-plus passes, we can get whatever we want,” said guard Braian Angola, who finished with 11 points and four assists. “In the first half we were not focused on that. That let them stay in the game. In the second half we executed the game plan.”
A switch to zone on the defensive end to start the second, with Obiagu defending the rim, didn’t hurt.
Charleston Southern (4-6) missed 11 of its first 13 shots. Christian Keeling (21 points) opened the second half with a 3-pointer and by the time Travis McConico (17 points) hit the Bucs’ second field goal of the half – with 13:22 remaining – the Noles were in command, 46-33.
“For seven or eight minutes, that zone just shook us,” Bucs’ coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “If you take away seven or eight minutes when we couldn’t attack a zone, it could have been even closer.”
“It helped keep them out of our paint,” Mann said of the zone defense. “Our goal at halftime was to get into their paint and keep them out of our paint. It definitely worked. The zone helped us with it.”
Florida State outscored its under-sized opponents 40-18 in the paint, where Obiagu looked quite at home, blocking three shots and altering a half-dozen or so others. And it didn’t hurt that, on the heels of a season-high 22 turnovers on Saturday, that the Noles didn’t have a single turnover in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
Valuing possession of the basketball and sharing it were clearly priority items for the Noles, who turned it over only 11 times and registered 21 assists on 27 field goals.
“That’s pretty good,” Hamilton said. “We’re capable of doing that. We’re fighting to get to that magic level…We’ve got to extend that level of efficiency throughout the whole game.”
Cofer followed up his career-high 22-point performance on Saturday with 19 points and six rebounds, while Mann added 17 points, a game-high seven assists and grabbed six rebounds. CJ Walker and Obiagu finished with eight points each.
The night certainly didn’t begin the way it ended for the Noles, who were left clinging to a 28-26 halftime lead after the Bucs closed the half on a 6-0 run following Mann’s driving layup with 3:29 remaining.
It could have been worse. The Noles scored 15 points off 12 Charleston Southern turnovers, but managed just three second-chance points – and one offensive rebound – as the Bucs doubled them up on the glass, 24-12.
The Seminoles will close out their non-conference schedule Thursday at home against Southern Miss (2 p.m.) before opening their ACC slate at Duke on Dec. 30.