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November 16, 2011
If not a test, Florida State took on a couple rounds of surprising concern against Stetson on Wednesday night.
Playing its third game in six days to open the 2011-12 campaign, the No. 24 Seminoles withstood defensive breakdowns and turnover woes to top the Hatters 79-66 at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
After building sizable leads in both halves, the Seminoles (3-0) saw their advantage whittle to striking distance both times. In the first half, Stetson pieced together a 16-0 run to cut FSU's lead to 33-30. In the second half, the Hatters got within eight points of the Seminoles with 9:28 to play.
"We were just dead out there," FSU center Bernard James said. "On defense we were dead, moving slow, it was like we had concrete blocks on our feet. And coming back on the offensive end, we would make one pass and someone would jack up a shot or kick the ball out of bounds. So we were just screwing up on both ends."
Florida State was kept afloat by shooting 57.1 percent from the floor as leading scorers Okaro White (18), Deividas Dulkys (16) and James (15) combined to shoot 21-of-25 from the field. FSU's lead got as large at 19 in the first half before a 4:32 scoring drought that allowed Stetson back in the contest.
Florida State buckled down late, however, going on a 9-0 run to take a 71-54 lead with 6:58 to play. Stetson would never get closer than 12 the rest of the way.
"You look at the stats and it says that we shot 57 percent from the floor," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "But I think we did that because we were bigger, stronger, a little more athletic, a little more talented than Stetson. But we did not execute and and we did not get the quality of consistency that I think we're going to need to continually move our program forward."
Stetson made a living from the outside, making seven of its 10 three pointers in the first half. By game's end, the Hatters (2-1) took 33 three-point attempts against just 34 two-point attempts.
Hamilton said that Stetson's style of play forced his team to adapt defensively and utilize a smaller lineup.
"We settled down little bit and just started playing within ourselves," first-year Stetson coach Casey Alexander said. "We played reckless early on, once we settled down, we got better shots, we played within the framework of our offense, we shared the ball better and we got a higher percentage shot."
Despite a severe height disadvantage, Stetson hung tough with the Seminoles on the glass, collecting 19 offensive rebounds - many bouncing long off the rim thanks to long distance shots - and only losing the rebounding battle 36-34.
Florida State's shooting efficiency was watered down by 17 turnovers and the 4:26 scoring drought that let Stetson make it a three-point game.
"We turned the ball over by being impatient," Hamilton said. "If we made the extra pass and block out a little better, all of a sudden a 79-point game becomes a larger game and a larger lead. I still like our team, I just think that's part of the growing up process of where we are."
James earned his second consecutive double-double with 11 rebounds while Dulkys was a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range.
The concern with a pair of blown leads was obvious, but the Seminoles hope to turn the early season struggles into a positive.
"I think (Monday) was a game that we can definitely learn a lot from," said senior point guard Jeff Peterson, who posted a game-high seven assists against one turnover. "I think our effort was there, but I know we didn't come out as focused as we need to be, and we can't have that with a team like this, as many veterans as we have. I think we can learn from this game and really try to execute the offensive and defensive game plans better."