ORLANDO, FL -- It wasn't pretty, but Florida State (4-1) earned its fourth win of the season in the first round of the Old Spice Classic. The 'Noles defeated Iona (3-1) 54-49 despite committing a season-high 27 turnovers.
"It definitely was a grinder," Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "There were some positive things that I liked and obviously there were some things that concerned me."
At the top of his list of concerns was the inordinate number of turnovers. The main culprits were sophomore center Solomon Alabi and sophomore forward Chris Singleton who combined for 13 on the evening.
"I am not real sure I can ever remember being in a game where we turn the ball over 27 times," Hamilton said. "We didn't handle things well. Solomon isn't accustomed to getting trapped as much as he has been getting trapped. … Chris is a very good passer and a real good decision maker but when people are pressuring you, it wears on you."
A major reason the Seminoles were able to overcome their sloppy ball-handling was a stingy defense. Florida State held Iona to 32.7 percent (17-for-52) shooting from the field and 13.3 percent (2-for-15) from 3-point range. The Seminoles also blocked a tournament record 12 shots on the evening.
"Our defense kind of saved us because we held them to 32 percent field goal percentage and if we continue to keep playing defense, then I think as we gain a little more experience we will smooth our offense out," Hamilton said.
"That is our bread and butter," added junior guard Derwin Kitchen. "We are going to rely on our defense every night. If we are going to turn the ball over as much as we do, then we better stop the team on the other end or we are definitely going to lose."
Offensively, Kitchen led the Seminoles with 16 points. Singleton was the only other Seminole in double figures, contributing 13 points and seven rebounds.
Freshman guard Michael Snaer contributed four points off the bench, the only reserve player to score for FSU.
As a team, Florida State shot 36.6 percent (15-for-41) from the field, 35.7 percent (5-for-14) from 3-point range, and 70.4 percent (19-of-27) from the charity stripe.
"We have our moments where we get a couple of easy buckets and get a run," sophomore guard Deividas Dulkys said. "But we are still having trouble getting in and out of our systems and being effective."
Maybe the most disappointing stat for the Seminoles was being outscored in the paint by 12 points (22-10) despite having a huge size advantage. The 'Noles did show an improvement on the boards holding a plus 11 advantage on the Gaels (38-27).
With the victory, Florida State will return to the court at 5 p.m. on Friday to face Alabama (3-1). The quick turnaround won't give Leonard Hamilton's squad much time to correct its mistakes.
"We are a team still trying to find ourselves," Hamilton said. "This tournament is going to be good for us because if we are going to continue to keep winning we are going to have to really, really reach down deep inside us and play better basketball."
Florida State's game against Alabama will be televised on ESPN2. The Crimson Tide dispatched Baylor 79-76 in their first round match-up earlier on Thursday.
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