The Florida State men's basketball team's schedule goes from a sprint to a jog starting Monday, and it couldn't come at a better time.
The Seminoles (8-2) struggled in the first half, but rallied in the second to beat Samford 61-45 at the Donald L. Tucker Center, ending a streak of 11 games in 27 days. FSU next hosts Maine on Saturday, then plays Butler in Indianapolis, Ind., on December 15.
"It's been kind of like an NBA schedule," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We've had very little time to practice. So now we go to more like a football schedule. It gives us a little more time to concentrate."
Samford (2-4) looked like a focused group at the start of the game, leading the Seminoles by as many as four in the first half. Disciples of Pete Carril's "Princeton offense," the Bulldogs stayed close with backdoor cuts to the basket and 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Seminoles turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, but held a six-point lead at halftime.
"We got caught on backdoors," guard Isaiah Swann said. "We got caught sleeping on the weak side. We got caught behind screens. That Princeton offense, if you're not sticking to your principles, you get burned."
FSU picked up the defensive intensity in the second half, which allowed the Seminoles to pull away. Florida State forced 11 second-half turnovers and turned them into points. Senior Jason Rich pepped up the team and the crowd with a couple of dunks and an emphatic blocked shot.
Hamilton said that, with Butler on the horizon, playing a team like Samford is a big benefit, considering the "Princeton offense" plays against the Seminoles' strengths.
"It was good work for us having to defend a system that challenged all your defensive principles," he said. "This system has always neutralized talent and athleticism. That's just the uniqueness of Pete Carril that allowed his teams to be successful."
Guard Toney Douglas led the Seminoles with 13 points, adding three rebounds and two steals. Uche Echefu scored 11 and pulled down six rebounds. Swann scored nine points and led the team with nine rebounds and two blocks.
With just two games in the next two weeks, the Seminoles can get back on the practice court to reinforce a few things and get back their shooting touch. Hamilton said shooting will be high on the list of priorities this week.
"The games have been coming so fast that we haven't had the minutes you need to spend shooting," Hamilton said, "the extra 20 minutes during the day and the extended shooting session after practice."