Without the services of two of its top scorers, Florida State came away with a sloppy 63-48 win over Lousiana-Monroe on Monday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Junior guard Ian Miller was held out for the second game straight game with a bone bruise on his foot, while senior Michael Snaer was suspended for what head coach Leonard Hamilton said was a "discipline issue".
Without Snaer and Miller, junior forward Okaro White led the way with 19 points and 11 rebounds while true freshman Aaron Thomas put forth the best performance of his young career with 17 points and six rebounds.
"You're always happy when you come away with a victory when you don't feel like you played as well as you're capable of playing," Hamilton said.
FSU (6-4) got off to a slow start. ULM (1-6) had the lead with 5:31 left in the first half, before a Devon Bookert three tied it up. Bookert later stole the ball and passed it ahead for a Montay Brandon lay-up.
The Seminoles didn't relinquish the lead, but never fully pulled away until the final seven minutes of the game. FSU led just 30-25 at the half, turning the ball over 13 times (it finished the game with 19 total turnovers).
"A lot the progress we're showing in practice we're not transferring to the games," Hamilton said. "We get the ball into the lane I think nine times in the first half, we got stripped six. We're extremely strong, we do a great job in the weight room, our guys have good hands, that's a breakdown in a level of concentration."
While the offense struggled to get into a rhythm it was White who kept FSU in the game, knocking down 12 of his 13 free-throw attempts. He was a perfect 7-for-7 in the first half at the line.
"I tried to show some leadership to those guys out there," White said. "I remember one time I was yelling and saying some words I can't repeat right now. The next huddle I got them in and I apologized and let them know I'm still going to get on them. We didn't have a great game, but we had some spurts where we showed great energy."
Hamilton agreed that the young players showed potential at times during the game, but he still wants more consistency on the defensive end of the floor from them.
FSU forced 23 turnovers and blocked seven shots, but the Warhawks also knocked down seven three-pointers, including six by Trent Mackey who had a game-high 22 points.
"We didn't do a very good job hedging, we didn't have good ball pressure and I thought we were late on the screens," Hamilton said. "Those are just some defensive techniques that we have not mastered yet."
Overall though Hamilton said he feels his young team is close to where he wants them to be.
"There was some moments that our young kids showed some flashes that there capable," he said.
Hamilton's team returns to the court Saturday December 22 in a neutral site game with Charlotte. Hamilton said he does expect Snaer to return to the lineup, but isn't confident that Miller or Robert Gilchrist (groin) will be ready.
"It's nothing that won't allow him to be right back in his position of leadership as we move on," Hamilton said of Snaer. "We'll move on from that. I'll say it's not something that I'm overly concerned about. It's over with and done with. He'll be back in his regular status."