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November 9, 2012

FSU falls flat, loses to South Alabama 76-71

FSU unveils the 2011-12 ACC Championship Banner
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On a night where Florida State unveiled its first-ever ACC Championship banner, it also showed quickly that it's a different season.

Heavily favored and nationally ranked, the No. 24 Seminoles fell flat in the season opener, falling to South Alabama 76-71 at the Donald L. Tucker Center on Friday night.

The players seemed to feel the defeat. The usually affable Michael Snaer kept his head down and answers short while fielding post-game questions. His teammates had similar reactions.

With seven newcomers and a pair of close preseason exhibition wins against Division II competition, the fears of growing pains were realized.

The lead changed 20 times in the game, but never stayed long in FSU's favor. The Seminoles struggled on both ends of the court, but had constant troubles defensively, an unusual turn of events given FSU's normally stingy pedigree.

"Defensively we have a ways to come," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.

Battling back and forth all night, Ian Miller nailed a three to pull FSU into a 69-69 tie with 1:02 to play. But in a microcosm of the game altogether, Terrence Shannon fouled South Alabama's Freddie Goldstein carelessly on a three-point attempt with 26 seconds left. Goldstein hit all three free throws as the Jaguars (1-0) pulled away.

South Alabama went 9-for-15 from three-point range and the Jaguars were also solid from the free throw line, shooting 78.1 percent. Antoine Allen led the scoring for Jaguars, tallying 27 points. He was one of five Jaguars with at least 10 points.

"It's been a long time since we allowed five guys to score in double figures (against us)," Hamilton said.

The Seminoles weren't as accurate. FSU shot just 23 percent from beyond the arc while sophomore Terry Whisnant and one of the newcomers, Montay Brandon, led the team with 11 points apiece. Whisnant also notched four rebounds. Michael Snaer scored 10 points, but was just 2-of-11 from the field.

"That was the ineptness of our offensive execution, our inability (under pressure)," Hamilton said.

Hamilton played five freshmen tonight for a combined 41 minutes. They were responsible for just four of FSU's 17 turnovers.

"They all made plays," Hamilton said of his freshmen. "I think they're more than capable. I have no doubt that before too long we'll look back and see these were the growing pains that we were going through. But we've got get better at point guard play and we've got to execute better. I think if we get that then offensively we will be better."

Hamilton cited point guard play as a problem area in the game and the Seminoles had freshman Devon Bookert just one minute to help in that department on Friday due to a minor knee injury.

Brandon was a bright spot in an otherwise lacking game. The freshman played 19 minutes, the most out of all the newcomers. Boris Bojanovsky, Aaron Thomas and Michael Ojo all saw playing time.

Hamilton is not interested in making excuses for the loss, but is instead interested in seeing how his team jumps back from this loss.

"We have to be careful not to make too many excuses. We just didn't play well enough to win this game tonight. You've got to give South Alabama credit. The true test of who we are will be how we bounce back and how we come back and perform."

Whisnant is sure that the Seminoles will impress Hamilton with how they bounce back and refocus.

"We'll come to practice tomorrow with a clear mindset to learn from these mistakes. We'll watch film and just know that we're better than this. We'll just learn from this."

The Seminoles Host Buffalo at 7 p.m. on Monday.

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