The tip-in basket by Georgia Southern forward Matt Fields had barely slipped through the net when Florida State men's basketball coach Leonard Hamilton called for a timeout and proceeded to share some words of … encouragement … with junior forward Uche Echefu.
Fields' basket, which cut the Seminoles' lead to two points midway through the first half Monday night, was the Eagles' sixth straight basket to come on a dunk or layup, and Hamilton was less than pleased with the play of his post players.
That quick reminder -- along with a lengthier tirade at halftime -- helped prod Echefu and the Seminoles' other post players to beef up their effort. Echefu, sophomore forward Ryan Reid, and freshman forward Julian Vaughn combined to grab 15 rebounds, block seven shots and score 22 points in a 92-67 victory.
"I'm not sure we blocked eight shots in three games last year," Hamilton said. "That's something we will have a little more of this year than we've had in the past."
The Seminoles, who averaged 3.3 blocks per game last season, racked up eight against Georgia Southern -- Vaughn had three, Echefu and Reid added two apiece, and even guard Toney Douglas notched one.
The Seminoles also climbed out of an early rebounding hole to dominate the glass. FSU finished with 44 rebounds, compared to 34 for the Eagles.
Echefu, who had just one at halftime, finished with nine.
"I was pleased with Uche," Hamilton said. "That shows he responded to the nice love session we had at halftime."
The post players didn't do much damage in the scoring column, but they didn't have to with Isaiah Swann and company shooting well from the perimeter.
Swann, a senior shooting guard, scored 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He was 3-of-7 from 3-point range and 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.
Junior point guard Toney Douglas scored 18 on 6-of-11 shooting, and senior guard Ralph Mims added 13 on 4-of-7 shooting. Vaughn led the post players with 12 points.
Aside from Swann, who scored 18 in the first half, the Seminoles had some trouble early against Georgia Southern's zone defense. FSU led by just four points with less than five minutes remaining in the first half before pulling away with a 10-2 run.
"We were a little lethargic in our zone attack," Hamilton said. "We were not very sure of ourselves in certain places."
Hamilton said he believes those problems will work themselves out as young players like Vaughn gain more experience. But he was extremely concerned by the Seminoles' deficit in assist-to-turnover ratio -- FSU committed 18 turnovers while converting just 13 assists.
He said it was mainly a result of "careless" play.
"I haven't seen anything that can't be corrected," he said.
The much anticipated debut of freshman center Solomon Alabi finally arrived late in Monday's game. And though the result of the game had already been decided when he entered the fray, FSU's fans offered perhaps their loudest cheers of the night for the highly touted 7-footer.
Alabi, who has been recovering from a stress fracture in his right shin, was cleared to play on Monday, and the Seminoles' coaches decided to not wait any longer.
"We felt very fortunate to have Solomon on the floor," Hamilton said. "He has never practiced with this team. Today was the first time he has jumped since August. This morning was the first time he has even had the chance to be with his team on the floor."
To get him acclimated, the Seminoles pounded the ball inside to him repeatedly during his four minutes of action. He attempted three shots and connected on two -- a pretty jump shot that he banked off the glass, and a two-handed dunk on a pass that he received from fellow freshman Jordan Demercy.
"I was very excited," said Alabi, a native of Nigeria who played basketball in Florida. "It was a great feeling."