ATLANTA - Playing their first game back after a week-long break for final exams, Florida State barely passed a test on the road at Georgia State. The Seminoles (9-1) survived down the stretch to earn a 62-57 victory against the Panthers (3-6) at the Georgia State Sports Arena in Atlanta, Ga.
FSU led by as many as 19 points at one point in the second half, but the game was sealed at the line with 4.4 seconds left by sophomore Derwin Kitchen, who became eligible on Friday. Kitchen's two free throws were his only points of the game in six minutes of action.
"He had a big rebound and hit two big free throws. That shows his maturity level," head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I am just happy we were able to win the game and for him being his first game back being able to contribute gives him an emotional lift."
Florida State led Georgia State at the half 30-25 behind 12 points from senior point guard Toney Douglas, one of four Georgia natives on the Seminoles roster.
Their lead would be extended as they opened the second half with a 21-7 run to get out to a 19-point lead with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game. The lead would not last though as the Seminoles scored only 11 points over the remainder of the game.
"I think we just got complacent," freshman guard Luke Loucks said. "I think a couple of us looked up at the scoreboard and realized we were ahead 19 with (12) minutes left. Honestly we just stopped being aggressive on both ends."
In fact, the Seminoles scoring drought down the stretch was highlighted by the fact that their final basket from the floor came with 5:49 remaining when Chris Singleton tipped in a Solomon Alabi miss giving FSU a 58-49 lead.
The Panthers scored the next eight points over a period to close it to 58-57 with 2:08 remaining. Neither team scored again until 19 seconds remaining in the game. Loucks was sent to the line and knocked down both attempts.
With it still a one possession game, the Seminole defense forced a 3-pointer by Leonard Mendez that missed off the rim. Kitchen grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled with only 4.4 seconds remaining on the clock. The junior college transfer knocked down both free throws to seal the victory.
"He was like, 'That is my first basket,'" Jordan Demercy said. "I was like'That is good to get in the books.' So he was feeling good about them. Hopefully we will just build on it from there.
"We move the record to 9-1 now. You take a win any time you can take it, even if it is ugly. So we just need to keep building on that."
In the scoring column, the Seminoles were led by Douglas who finished with 23 points. The only other Seminole in double-digits was Singleton who contributed 11 points.
As a team, Florida State was 21-of-38 from the floor and 7-of-11 from deep. At the charity stripe they were 13-of-19. Turnover woes once again hurt the Seminoles as they had 15 turnovers.
"In reality we were never in rhythm from the start of the game offensively," Hamilton said. "We had a lot of miscues and I am sure there are reasons but we can all make those kinds of excuses."
The Seminoles struggles were not only on the offensive end. Georgia State was led by sophomore guard Trae Goldston who scored a career-high 24 points, 16 of which came in the second half. The Panthers also went basket-for-basket with the Seminoles in the second half as both teams put up 32 points in the final half.
"I thought defensively we were not nearly as sharp," Hamilton added. "I didn't feel we were disruptive and getting deflections with the energy that is necessary to disrupt a team that is being very, very patient."
While the Seminoles got Kitchen back, they were a man down as freshman guard Deividas Dulkys was out due to a groin/hamstring injury suffered this past week in practice.
Florida State returns to action on Tuesday night when they host Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast by FSN-Florida.