A few days after saying that they needed to make progress on defense, Florida State showed some progress Monday night against St. Leo's, but this time the offense lagged as the Seminoles held off the Lions 65-56.
Okaro White led the way with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. Montay Brandon and Michael Snaer each had 11 and Ian Miller added seven of his own.
But the story, once again, were Florida State's deficiencies.
"Our defense is better, but we're still not there," said Okaro White. "Even though they beat Miami and they're a good team, we're still not there. It's tough, I would probably say we need more attention to detail. We brought our defense up, but you can't have one up and one down."
At around the nine minute point in the second half St. Leo's had Florida State up against the ropes, cutting the Seminoles' lead to just five points and beginning to push the tempo on the court. Florida State fought back, but they never really got on the kind of run in the second half to put St. Leo's away.
Inside is where the Seminoles are struggling the most right now. Michael Ojo, Boris Bojanovsky and Kiel Turpin do not have a lot of experience under the basket in college and until they get to see more playing time and get used to the speed and pace of the college game, they may continue to struggle. They'll get there, it's just a matter of how quickly.
Turpin at least got a chance to cut his teeth agaisnt last season's team and guys like Jon Kreft, Bernard James and Xavier Gibson in practice. That experience should lend itself to him picking things up more quickly, and it was Turpin who started at center for the 'Noles on Monday night. But nobody is where Leonard Hamilton wants them to be yet underneath the hoop.
The final minute was also more exciting than the Seminole faithful would have preferred. Though it was using a smaller rotation at one point the Seminoles couldn't get a defensive rebound for around 25 seconds as St. Leo's continued to attack the Florida State hoop with little success. Finally a Trent Thomas three-pointer put St. Leo's within seven with 47 seconds left on the clock.
Montay Brandon knocked down a couple of free throws to push the Seminole lead back to nine with under 30 seconds remaining, but St. Leo's made another late charge and took four shots in the final seconds. FSU was unable to come up with a single defensive rebound (once again) but time expired before St. Leo's could sink anything else. The 'Noles ended up pulling out the nine-point win 65-56.
Hamilton attributed that more to the players on the floor than an inability to get rebounds on the team as whole.
"There are a lot of areas of our game where we need to improve, I could nitpick four of five other areas too," said Leonard Hamilton. "But I don't expect rebounding to be an issue."
On the offensive end of the court, Florida State was solid but never hit its stride. Part of that just comes from the rotation (or lack thereof) and Coach Hamilton's stated intention to get as many guys in to the game as he could. They got solid performance from their starters, and got lots of younger guys minutes, but they never fired on all cylinders.
"The important thing is to keep winning while we develop," said Hamilton after the game. "We're not there yet, but I'm still confident that by the time we get to conference play we'll be defending our crown."