Vassell leads Florida St. rout of Chattanooga
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By BOB FERRANTE
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Leonard Hamilton was worried about how Florida State would play without two starters. As Wednesday night’s game developed, the coach had no reason to be concerned.
Devin Vassell scored 17 points and pulled down a career-high eight rebounds while Patrick Williams added 16 points as Florida State cruised to an 89-53 rout of Chattanooga, the Seminoles' largest margin of victory in more than two years.
Ole Miss graduate transfer Dominik Olejniczak scored his first points at Florida State (3-1), going 5 for 6 from the floor with 10 points and three rebounds. The Seminoles shot 34 of 65 (52%) from the floor without forward RaiQuan Gray and guard M.J. Walker.
“I went into this game anxious because we were without two of our more experienced players,” Hamilton said. “I thought our guys really responded well. We had high-percentage shots, which gave some of our big guys a little bit more room to go to the offensive boards. It was tremendously challenging for Chattanooga to defend us because the ball moved so well.”
Hamilton frequently says that his team is about the “sum of its parts,” and Wednesday was a good example. Five Seminoles scored in double figures and 15 players saw time on the court.
Freshman center Balsa Koprivica added 10 points and seven rebounds, while Rice transfer forward Malik Osborne scored 10 points and pulled down three rebounds. The Seminoles’ height and length translated into a 41-30 rebound edge.
“Balsa has gone from extremely anxious and nervous in the beginning of the year to playing with a lot more confidence,” Hamilton said. “He’s becoming more of an instinctive player as he’s learning.”
Florida State’s 36-point margin of victory was the biggest for the program since the Seminoles routed Clemson 109-61 on Feb. 5, 2017.
David Jean-Baptiste had 15 points for Chattanooga (3-2). Rod Johnson had 11 points and six rebounds for the Mocs, who shot 23 of 59 (39%).
Florida State also took away a Chattanooga strength – the 3-pointer. The Mocs made just 5 of 24 (21%) of their shots from beyond the arc.
“In the scouting report, there was a lot of talk about their 3s,” Vassell said. “That was probably the key to the game, not let them get as many 3s and contain the dribble. We were able to get some stops and get transition points.”
Even without Gray and Walker, Florida State was overwhelming. Olejniczak’s layup with 9:19 to halftime put Florida State ahead 28-17 and the Seminoles led by double figures the rest of the way.
“They are physically strong and athletic and long,” Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris coach. “It’s length that we haven’t gone against as much this year. But I thought really had a lot to do with things that we didn’t do, core values that we have as a defensive team that we were not able to do.”
Chattanooga: The Mocs trailed by double figures most of the game and couldn’t shoot their way back into it despite Jean-Baptiste’s 7 of 13 performance.
Florida State: The Seminoles still posted a season-high point total, played their walk-ons late and had more than enough to overwhelm the Mocs.
Williams shot 6 of 10 from the floor and the freshman forward was able to play 20 high-energy minutes off the bench.
“He’s giving tremendous effort,” Hamilton said. “I very well could have started him. But I see something special in him. And I don’t want to put him in a situation where he feels a lot of pressure. I want him to have a natural maturation. His minutes are going to increase. He didn’t have any wasted minutes.”
FIGHTING THROUGH INJURIES
Hamilton said Gray and Walker are still unable to play due to injuries. He said they were doubtful for the next game.
Chattanooga plays at Tennessee on Monday.
Florida State plays host to Saint Francis, Pa., on Saturday.
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Updated November 20, 2019