Florida State survived a scare against La Salle in front of 3,314 at Tom Gola Arena on Tuesday evening defeating the Explorers 65-61 in a game where FSU trailed up to the final minute. The Seminoles improved to 2-0 on the season.
Jordan Demercy broke a 61-61 tie with his jumper with 28 seconds left. Then, with 13 seconds remaining, Demercy was fouled off a steal and hit both free throws to seal the Seminoles' victory.
"I knew we were going to do something for Toney to get a ball-screen and he would drive and penetrate and kick it out to me and I was ready to shoot it, pump fake, take one dribble and I felt it was good when I released it," Demercy said. "Then I knew we had to get another stop because they have good three point shooters. I am glad the defense picked up and that I got the ball in my hand. They fouled me and I just went to the free throw line with confidence and knocked them both down.
"It is a big victory," he added. "It was packed and loud and they were a tough team. We held on a little bit but it is a win. You have to take them how you can get them at this point. We will get better and learn from our mistakes."
The first half saw Florida State jump out to a 7-0 lead before a scoring drought of 9:42 allowed the Explorers to come back. The home team would eventually gain a 21-13 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the half before Florida State found their scoring touch again to end the half trailing only 22-19.
"We were not in sync offensively and we have had a tendency to do that," head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We just seem to have difficulty getting going. We had every available shot we wanted in the first half. We turned it over. We missed point blank lay-ups. I guess that is part of the growing up process when you have as many youngsters as we have."
Toney Douglas led all scorers going into the locker room with seven points. As a team, the Seminoles were only 5-of-21 from the floor in the first half but was able to stay in the game thanks to 8-of-9 shooting at the charity stripe. Florida State did turn the ball over 13 times in the first half.
Coming out of the locker room, Florida State took the lead early on but would trade it with the Explorers numerous times. With 12 minutes left, the Seminoles found themselves down eight but would eventually tie it again with five minutes before taking the lead back with four minutes remaining.
Douglas finished the game leading all scorers with 18 points. The Seminoles got 11 points and four rebounds from Ryan Reid. Demercy had nine points and six boards to go along with four assists. Chris Singleton and Deividas Dulkys both had six points, all coming in the second half. Solomon Alabi also had six points to go along with seven boards. Senior Uche Echefu, seeing his first action of the season, also contributed six points despite battling foul trouble.
"The thing that I was most proud of was that when we needed everybody to step up, I think everybody that played contributed," Hamilton said.
La Salle was led in scoring by Yves Mekongo Mbala who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Jerrell Williams joined him in double digits scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds for the Explorers. Rodney Green had six points and seven assists.
Florida State held their second consecutive opponent under 40 percent from the floor as La Salle shot 36 percent for the game. The Explorers were just 4-of-21, 19 percent, from behind the arc. Florida State used a strong-shooting second half to finish the game at 40 percent from the floor, including 40 percent from deep. They were 75 percent from the charity stripe. The Seminoles were out-rebounded 36-to-34 on the evening. Florida State also finished the evening with 18 turnovers.
Following the victory, Hamilton said he was glad his team survived their two-game road trip to start the season and that they are now returning home to play three consecutive home games including their 2008-09 home opener on Thursday night against Stetson at 8 p.m.
"I am glad we are coming home to play three games," Hamilton said. "Hopefully we can smooth some things out in front of our home crowd."
The game time for the Florida State men's basketball game against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 21 has been changed to 4:00 p.m. and will not be televised.
Additionally, the game time for Florida State's game against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Jan. 3 has been changed to 4:00 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Net-Florida.