Winthrop played without their leading scorer, Nych Smith, due to an ankle injury, but that did not stop the Eagles from giving Florida State all they could handle. A three point game with 5:06 remaining, the Seminoles tightened up on defense and pulled away for an 11 point victory.
Above The Rim
- FSU struggled with their dribble-drive defense throughout the game, but especially so in the first half. The Eagles had made 10 layups by the time the third media timeout came with 7:49 left in the first half and finished with 20. Winthrop’s smaller guards were able to get by the ‘Noles, and the help defense did not consistently rotate in time. PJ Savoy particularly struggled with keeping his man in front of him, and Anthony Polite saw more minutes because of that. Allowing smaller teams to get to the basket will hurt the ‘Noles against slashing ACC teams, like N.C. State and Virginia Tech.
- Coach Hamilton had the opportunity to try some interesting lineups against the second shortest team in the country. With 10:59 left in the 2nd, The Seminoles employed a lineup of David Nichols, Trent Forrest, Terrance Mann, Polite, and Phil Cofer. A few minutes later Hamilton had a lineup consisting of Nichols, Forrest, Polite, Devin Vassell, and Mfiondu Kabengele. It is unlikely FSU will need to go this small in conference play, but it was interesting to see some new configurations.
- The Seminoles made 19-29, 65.5%, from the free throw line, but are still shooting 74.8% on the season. Mann, 0-4, and Forrest, 2-4, were uncharacteristically off from the line in this game but overall the ‘Noles continue to be improved from the charity stripe.
- Cofer got his first start of the season and exploded for 12 points–including three makes from beyond the arc– before four minutes had even run off the clock. He scored only 2 points, on a pair of free throws, the rest of the way, but played solid defense throughout. He still needs time to get back into game shape, as he looked out of gas in the second half, but Phil is back and that is a beautiful thing for The Seminoles.
- Kabengele flashed some NBA moves on consecutive possessions with a midrange turnaround jumper and then a tomahawk slam after blowing by his defender. In 11 minutes of first half play, Kabengele had 10 points, but he did not score and committed 4 fouls in the 2nd half before fouling out late. However, all 4 of his blocks came in the 2nd half, and 2 of them led to Mann baskets on the other end that helped the ‘Noles pull away late.
- Mann led all scorers with 22 points to go with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. He hit 2 threes and took another with no hesitation from the corner that just missed, continuing to show improved confidence from deep. Mann went 10-11 from the floor but 0-3 from the free throw line. At 73.9% on the year, Mann has improved by nearly 8% over his last two seasons from the charity stripe so far this year.
- Forrest scored his first points with 4:23 left in the game but ended up with 6. He added 2 steals, with 1 assist and 2 turnovers. Forrest has been fantastic at times this season but nights like this will really hurt as the team goes into ACC play. His leadership and defense were still a significant contribution, as usual.
- Polite had a driving lay-up, two free throws, and a steal with a lay-in in just 32 seconds of play with the lead at only four with 10:30 left. His defense was solid, as mentioned above, and he continues to get more minutes as he emerges as an all-around player.
Winthrop Head Coach Pat Kelsey discusses his respect for Coach Hamilton and how his team kept the game close late into the game:
Coach Leonard Hamilton discusses Christ Koumadje’s improved rebounding and how his team countered the smaller lineup of Winthrop:
Anthony Polite talks about the trust among his teammates and how he is getting more comfortable on the court:
Mfiondu Kabengele talks about the unique challenge Winthrop presented, how he and the rest of the defense adjusted, and how the Seminoles’ mentality is different from last year:
The Seminoles travel to Charlottesville to face No. 4 Virginia on Saturday at 3pm in what is the ACC opener for both teams.