Playing for the first time in eight days, Florida State looked rusty and trailed for much of the first half.
Trent Forrest soon changed everything, driving to the basket and consistently producing points or drawing fouls.
Forrest scored a career-high 23 points and freshman Devin Vassell added 16 points as No. 11 Florida State overcame a sluggish first half and beat Southeast Missouri 85-68 on Monday night.
“It was one of those grinding games that I think is good for this team this time of year to keep us focused and understand we’re still a work in progress,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We have some moving parts that still are developing.”
One dependable part this season has been Forrest. The junior point guard shot 8 for 12 from the floor, 6 of 8 from the free-throw line, had a team-high eight rebounds and four assists to help the Seminoles (9-1) win their fourth straight.
Forrest has scored eight or more points in all but one game this season and has been a leader in his first season as the Seminoles’ starting point guard.
“Our shots weren’t falling so we needed to get to the basket some, get to the foul line,” Forrest said. “I feel like just pushing the tempo got us some easy points.”
Florida State secured its 30th straight non-conference home win. Nebraska is the last non-conference team to defeat the Seminoles, 70-65 on Dec. 1, 2014.
Ledarrius Brewer scored 16 points and Skyler Hogan added 14 points, knocking down four 3-pointers, for Southeast Missouri (5-7).
Christ Koumadje added seven rebounds as Florida State outrebounded the undersized Redhawks 46-28.
Southeast Missouri led 47-42 with 14:46 to go but Florida State went on a 12-0 run to take control for good.
The Seminoles shot 50 percent (31 for 62). They were just 1 for 12 on 3-pointers in the first half before finishing 6 for 24.
“Tonight was one of those nights where it just seemed like we had great (jump) shots and they didn’t fall,” Hamilton said.
Southeast Missouri shot 25 of 59 (42.4 percent) from the floor. The Redhawks made 14 3-pointers but couldn’t withstand Florida State’s second-half run.
“Really proud of the way our guys competed for somewhere between 27 and 30 minutes,” Southeast Missouri coach Rick Ray said. “We have a really young and inexperienced team. So for them to come out here and match the intensity that Florida State brings. Our next step is being able to play that way for 40 minutes.”
Senior forward Phil Cofer, who led the team by averaging 12.8 points last season, returned to the court Monday after missing Florida State’s first nine games with a foot injury. Cofer played five minutes in the first half, going 0 for 4 from the floor.
“He had great shots,” Hamilton said. “He had good effort. I just didn’t want to push it. We want to ease him back into the flow. We need him for the long haul.”
Florida State also played without guard M.J. Walker, who had a sprained ankle.
Southeast Missouri will play eight of its 13 non-conference games away from home this season. The Redhawks lost at Saint Louis and Bradley in November but also picked up wins over Jacksonville and UT Chattanooga in a tournament at South Alabama.
Florida State likely didn’t impress voters who are weighing if this is a top-10 team. But the Seminoles again grinded out a win at home as they begin a stretch of three games in six days.
Southeast Missouri: The Redhawks had Florida State on the ropes as Brewer scored 10 points in the first half. They ran out of gas in the second half and couldn’t match up with the Seminoles’ height or athleticism.
Florida State: The Seminoles were playing for the first time in more than a week and were able to withstand the scrappy Redhawks.
Southeast Missouri will host Abilene Christian on Friday.
Florida State hosts North Florida on Wednesday.