Florida State got things started on a good foot in their season opener disposing of Nicholls State 81-58 thanks to a strong second half where the Seminoles forced 19 turnovers.
"In the second half I thought we played much better defense and got steals," head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Overall, I felt like we played with effort the entire night but we didn't always execute our principles."
The Seminoles were led by senior guard Jason Rich who scored 17 points on the evening.
"I didn't want to force anything but I wanted to let my game come to me," Rich said. "The way they were guarding me and playing defense I had to be patient but other guys like Julian [Vaughn] and and Isaiah [Swann] opened it up. My opportunities came from my teammates. That is what it is about though."
Also in double digits was Isaiah Swann who scored 15 points, all in the first half. Uche Echefu and Toney Douglas scored 10 points each.
At the half, Florida State led 42-35 thanks to the three-point shooting of Swann. Going into the locker room, the senior guard led all scorers with 15 points on 5-6 shooting but he was perfect from the perimeter. Rich had seven points at the half.
The Seminoles were able to pull away from the Colonels thanks to a total of 27 turnovers that resulted in 37 points for the Seminoles. In the second half, Florida State had a 39-23 scoring advantage thanks to numerous easy buckets.
"First half we were struggling a little bit because we understood the gameplan but we didn't trust it to much," Swann said. "Once the second half started and we saw that we were up only seven. We understood that we should listen to Coach (Stan) Jones because he knows what he is saying. So we came out the second half and got deflections after deflection and steal after steal."
Rebounding was again an issue for the Seminoles as they were beaten on the boards by a 29-26 margin. They allowed 16 second chance points to Nicholls State. Hamilton was unhappy with the Seminoles effort on the boards in their final preseason game against Valdosta State due to a lack of effort, but said tonight was better but not near the level necessary for the team to be successful.
"I am very concerned but I thought it was a much better effort," Hamilton said. "That is an area that we have got to improve. There is no question about that. If we are going to be a team of significance and play at the level that we want to play at we are going to have to rebound."
Julian Vaughn, a freshman power forward, found out just before the opening tip of the season that he would start for the Seminoles. Hamilton said the Vienna, Virginia native earned the starting nod because of his rebounding effort in the preseason. Vaughn made the most of it scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
"I found out I was starting when I saw my name on the board in the locker room," Vaughn said. "It was really fun. It was a different experience than high school. I know what to expect now and having played in the first few games it has been kind of nerve wracking at first but I have gotten used to it."
He is the first true freshman to start the opening game of the season for Florida State since Michael Joiner did it in 2000-2001.
Fellow freshman Jordan Demercy logged nine minutes but missed his only attempt from the field. He did have two rebounds and two assists.
Florida State returns to the court on Monday evening at 9 p.m. when they host Georgia Southern. That game will be televised on Fox Sports Network-Florida.
Solomon Alabi Injury Update
Freshman center Solomon Alabi did not dress for the Seminoles opening game. Following the game, Hamilton updated the 7-foot-1 center's status.
"He hasn't had any contact," Hamilton said.
As for his return, Hamilton was guarded in his answer of when the talented five-star may finally put on the Seminole uniform.
"I can't predict that," Hamilton said. "That is kind of where nature has to take its course. He is improving with each examination. It just takes time for stress fractures to heal. We are not going to be foolish enough to try to force it and rush him."
"We are going to allow him to heal," Hamilton said. "We are going to nurse this one. We are not going to make haste make waste. We would love to have him."
Hamilton said that Alabi is doing everything in practice except for jumping.