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November 27, 2009

FSU advances to Old Spice Championship

Coming off a loss to Florida and a narrow victory over Iona in the span of three days, Florida State was looking to show some resolve against Alabama on Friday in its second-round game of the Old Spice Classic. Behind 14 points from Chris Singleton and another solid defensive effort that saw the Seminoles limit the Crimson Tide to 40-percent shooting from the field, Florida State earned a 60-51 victory.

"I thought our guys played fairly well tonight out of the respect they had for [Alabama] and how well they had played up to this point," Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said.

Alabama (3-2) turned the ball over 12 times on the evening and had five shot attempts blocked. Throughout the second half, the Crimson Tide trailed by double-digits and were never able to close the margin to less than seven points in the final 14 minutes.

"You have to give Florida State credit," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "For a team that played their third game in four days, I thought they came out and played with good energy. I thought they obviously shot the ball extremely well from the field tonight. When you look at their numbers, 47 percent from the field and 69 percent from the 3-point line and getting to the line (21) times, offensively they were able to be effective and win the game."

According to Hamilton, Florida State (5-1) knew it would be in for a battle after watching the Tide secure a first-round victory over Baylor on Thursday.

"This game really concerned us because we thought this would be a very difficult matchup for us," Hamilton said. "They are very quick and athletic, long, and after watching them play Baylor, we saw that they have power forwards and centers who are athletic like three-men (small forwards). We knew we were going to have to try to match them on the boards. We held our own with them on the boards tonight. We knew that we had to defend very well."

While the offense had a good evening -- the Seminoles shot 46.5 percent (20-for-43) from the field and 69.2% (9-for-13) from deep -- it was the defense that allowed the Seminoles to advance to Sunday evening's Old Spice Classic Championship Game against Marquette.

"Defensively, I thought it was a team effort," Hamilton said.

"That is what we pride ourselves on, defense, and we are going to keep playing defense," sophomore forward Chris Singleton added. "Our offense may not always be there, but we know our defense will be."

On the offensive end, Florida State played in control and showed an ability to effectively break Alabama's full-court press while also executing a half-court offense.

"I thought that we managed the game fairly well," Hamilton said. "We shot the ball well from the 3-point range. I thought we did a good job moving the ball and we got good looks. But anytime that you have a team as young as ours and this early in the season, you are just very happy to get through a game with a victory."

A major reason for the Seminoles' improvement from their past two games was that they valued the ball. After committing six turnovers in the first six minutes, the Seminoles settled down.

"We thought we executed very poorly against Iona, turning the ball over 27 times, and after the first half (tonight), I said to myself, 'Oh gosh, here it goes again,'" Hamilton said. "But I was very proud of the guys because we came in and regrouped at halftime and I thought we took care of the ball and defended very well down the stretch."

Florida State had 10 turnovers at the half, but finished the game committing just 12. The Seminoles had 15 assists in the victory. Hamilton believes the good ballhandling and effective offense displayed by the Seminoles in the second half can easily continue.

"I think we are capable," Hamilton said. "I think it is just an awareness of fundamentals and concentrating, catching and snatching the ball, having good footwork, and be conscience of meeting the passes and not allowing yourself to be put into those types of situations."

FSU also received a better all-around performance from junior point guard Derwin Kitchen, who scored eight points and grabbed six boards, while also tying a career high with six assists and committing just one turnover.

"We are a pretty good team if we don't turn the ball over," Kitchen said. "In order to compete at this level, you can't keep turning the ball over because teams will expose you."

In addition to Singleton and Kitchen on the offensive end, sophomore center Solomon Alabi had 10 points and sophomore wing Deividas Dulkys contributed nine points on three crucial first-half 3-pointers.

Florida State got 15 points from its bench, which was led by sophomore forward Xavier Gibson's nine points, five of which came during a pivotal stretch in the first half.

"I just wanted to come in and make a spark," Gibson said. "I wanted to get us going and bring some energy to the team. I wanted to personally do good against Alabama because that is my home state."

Gibson, who had nine points, four rebounds, a block and an assist in 17 minutes of play, showed the potential that has his coaches excited.

"We all know that Xavier has a wealth of talent, but he has not been as consistent lately as we would like for him to be," Hamilton said. "He was very disappointed in what he thought was not his best effort against Iona. I thought he came out tonight and was really, really focused and gave us what we needed from him."

With the victory, Florida State will square off against Marquette on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2 in the Old Spice Classic Championship Game. Marquette advanced by upsetting No. 15 Michigan 79-65 earlier on Friday.

"They are a scrappy, hard-nosed, tough, competitive bunch," Hamilton said of the Golden Eagles. "They have a lot of guards that move the ball very well. What we know about them is that they probably bring as much toughness to the game and as much physicality as we will face all year. So we know we are going to have to match their intensity and aggressiveness and we are going to have to execute and be ourselves and play our game."

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