Florida State rang out the New Year in winning fashion as the Seminoles rolled over visiting Alabama A&M, 81-34, in front of a sparse Tallahassee crowd Thursday afternoon.
The New Year's Eve result was never really in doubt as the Seminoles opened up a 16-point lead late in the first half and never took their foot off the gas. Florida State's lead stretched to 47 points in the second half; that was the largest and final margin of the game.
The 34 points allowed was the lowest given up by Florida State since March 2, 1979 against then-Memphis State.
"I saw some positive signs today," head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I thought our players came out with intensity today. We were moving the ball unselfishly, almost to a fault."
Florida State's defense only got better as the game progressed.
The Bulldogs only scrapped together 10 points in the second half and shot a lowly 18.2 percent from the floor in the last 20 minutes. The frustration was evident in A&M head coach Vann Pettaway's post-game comments.
"We have to find the person that put the lid on the basket in the second half," Pettaway joked. "Someone put a lid on the basket on our end of the floor in the second half."
Sophmore Xavier Gibson had a night to remember as he scored 17 points - a career best. When the 6-foot-11 forward wasn't scoring, he was doing just about everything else.
Gibson racked up eight rebounds, five of which were on the offensive glass. Gibson threw in an additional block and steal for good measure.
"Tonight I saw the result of the effort that he has been putting in practice," Hamilton said of his forward's play. "He's been very focused. He is trying to do what we have asked him to do. I just want to see consistency. I want to see him coming with that type of productivity game in and game out."
While Gibson's scoring numbers were impressive, it was his rebounding that he was most proud of.
"I feel like when I do more rebounding, I get going a lot faster," Gibson said. "I wasn't really thinking too much about it (offense). I was just rebounding and the offense came. You work on defense, and the offense will come."
Deividas Dulkys led all scorers with 19 points, as he went 5-for-8 behind the three-point line and 7-for-10 from the floor. He contributed an assist and a steal as well.
"The team was looking for me, they found me. I shot open jump shots and they went in," Dulkys said. "It was just another day, and that's how I am going to try to think about it. The next day, I'm going to try to think about it the same way."
Despite coming away with a lopsided victory, Hamilton knows there still are areas where the Seminoles can continue to get better. However, signs are becoming evident that Florida State may not be as far off as once thought.
"I think we are still a team that is making progress in certain areas, but I came away knowing that we still have a lot of room for improvement," Hamilton explained. "Derwin (Kitchen) didn't have any turnovers and Michael Snaer didn't have any turnovers, so I think we were making a conscious effort to take care of the ball."