The Stetson Hatters came into Tallahassee shooting a woeful 19% from behind the arc. You would never have known it however as the Hatters connected on 13 of 32 three pointers nearly pulling off the upset of Florida State.
FSU however apparently contracted the Hatters’ three point difficulties in shooting a horrendous 1-10 from behind the line, a bomb that Uche Echefu canned from above the key at the 13:25 mark of the first half.
The saving grace for the Seminoles however came at the free throw line where the ‘Noles were 28 of 24 to Stetson’s 8 of 13.
It was Toney Douglas’ two charity shots with 1:02 that was the final margin of victory. Following a missed runner by Douglas with nine seconds left in the game a driving layup by A.J. Smith was no good but would have been called off as Smith charged sealing the win for the 3-0 Seminoles.
FSU jumped out to a 7-4 lead before Stetson canned three wide open three pointers all from above the key giving the Hatters a 14-10 lead.
It was back and forth with Stetson taking a 27-24 lead on yet another wide open three from above the key. this time by Eric Diaz at the 5:30 mark.
At that point FSU increased their defensive intensity getting hands into the passing lanes, forcing Stetson in to turnovers or poor shots that led to easy run outs (three baskets of which were attributable to the pinpoint passing of Luke Loucks) or foul shots.
FSU held the Hatters scoreless over that final 5:30 outscoring them 19-0 to lead 43-27 at the half.
It looked like FSU finally had control of the game.
Stetson had something else in mind.
The Hatters started off the second half with another three from the right wing and a wide open jumper by Stetson’s leading scorer, Garfield Blair (19 points) that forced Leonard Hamilton to call a timeout just fifty-eight seconds into the half.
That didn’t help as FSU committed numerous turnovers as Stetson inched closer on yet more three point shots. Diaz’ three ball off a screen roll from the left wing followed by Blair’s three gave FSU a 56-54 lead with 12:30 remaining.
Things began to look even worse for the ‘Noles when Ryan Reid committed an ill-advised foul while Diaz was taking a three point shot. Diaz sank all three freebies And Mark Lohuis followed with two more free throws to take a 66-59 lead at the 8:47 mark.
That’s when Douglas put the team on his shoulders to scored 11 of his game high 26 points over those remaining minutes scoring 14 of FSU’s final 20 points. The senior attacked the defense scoring numerous short range pull up jumpers or on run out fast breaks one in particular off yet another on the mark pass down the floor by Loucks.
Loucks’ passing skills once again came in handy in delivering a nice pass off a head fake to Reid whose up and under layup from the right side gave FSU a 75-69 lead.
Still Stetson would not go away when Diaz banked in yet another three ball from twenty five feet out. After Douglas made another short jumper from the lane Kris Thomas made Seminole fans in attendance sweat it out after nailing a three pointer from the left wing to make it 77-75 with 1:33 left.
To compound the problem Jordan DeMercy fouled Thomas on the play but Thomas missed the free throw.
Douglas made the final points for FSU before Smith’s layup with 43 seconds left made it 79-77. Douglas runner from the left side would not go down setting up Smith’s final attempt that would have tied the game.
Joining Douglas in double figures was Reid with 16, Solomon Alabi with a career high 13 including two nice mid range jump shots, and Chris Singleton with a quiet but important 10 points.
What wasn’t quiet for Singleton was his 10 rebounds. Reid added 9 boards as well.
Of note in the rebounding department were offensive rebounds where the Seminoles had been badly in the first two games. FSU corralled 16 offensive boards to Stetson’s 13.
Apparently the theme for these Seminoles in this early part of the season will be to make it exciting. The three wins by FSU have been by a total margin of eight points.
Seminole fans hope to get a reprieve from these cardiac type games when the ‘Noles take on 0-2 Coastal Carolina on Saturday. Tip off for the game has been changed to 4:00 PM.