Florida State men's basketball coach Leonard Hamilton said his young team would experience some growing pains. Luckily for the Seminoles, they have a veteran like Toney Douglas to right the ship.
The Seminoles blew a 16-point halftime lead, but Douglas scored 11 straight points in four and a half minutes to calm FSU (3-0) down and lead the team to a 79-77 win over Stetson on Thursday night at the Tucker Center.
The Hatters (1-2) had one last chance to tie the game when guard A.J. Smith drove the lane with time running out. But Ryan Reid stepped up to draw the charge as Smith's shot bounced off the rim.
Hamilton said FSU's youth could lead to a lot of nail-biters like Thursday's. None of Florida State's three wins have been by more than four points.
"I've never really played with this many inexperienced players," Hamilton said. "(Associate head coach) Stan (Jones) told me early, he said, 'Coach we're going to have to win games ugly for a while until we grow as a team.'
"I didn't want to accept that," he continued, "but that's kind of the way that's gone."
The Seminoles took a 43-27 lead into halftime thanks to a 19-0 run to close the period. FSU got most of those points underneath, with Chris Singleton, Solomon Alabi and Reid combining for 14 points in that run.
The Hatters came out firing in the second half and their aim had improved. After hitting just four of 15 3-pointers in the first half, they drained nine in the second half and lead by as many as seven.
But that spurred Douglas, one of FSU's three seniors, to increase the tempo. He made one of two free throws to start his 11-point run and led Florida State back to a 67-66 lead.
"I knew we were down," Douglas, who led all scorers with 26, said. "I just needed to take over. The team needed me to score more and I just had to go to work."
Stetson coach Derek Waugh said his Hatters knew Douglas was dangerous, but couldn't do enough to stop him.
"One of our keys to the game before tonight was to hold him under 35 percent shooting," he said. "I'm not a mathematician, but obviously we didn't do that.
"I kind of thought he put his team on his back in the second half," he added. "I don't think it was because we did a poor job guarding him. We did a pretty good job guarding him, so he was just making difficult plays."
Three other Seminoles joined Douglas in double figures. Singleton scored 10 and added a team-high 10 rebounds. Reid scored 16 and Alabi scored 13. Garfield Blair led Stetson with 19 points.
The Seminoles return to the Tucker Center court Saturday against Coastal Carolina at 4 p.m.