It took a lot longer than any of us expected, but Florida State finally gets their first win of the season with an 82-71 win over the Mercer Bears. It wasn't always easy going, as it felt eerily similar to the Florida game: big first half lead, an early second half run got Mercer back in the game and eventually the lead, but Florida State responded and got the win. They went on a 9-0 run after the game was tied 66 apiece with just over 4 minutes remaining, and that was just enough to put the game on ice.
The defense was playing at a really high level most of the night, as FSU finally had the bodies to substitute guys in and out and keep guys fresh. We saw the hockey style lineup changes for the first time all season, and it was a welcome sight. While there are things to fix, it's a lot easier to appreciate them after a win.
As mentioned, the defense was playing at a much higher level in this game, especially when contesting shots. As a team, Florida State blocked 11 shots tonight, the most since March 2018 in a game against Louisville, another game where they blocked 11 shots. Naheem McLeod alone had 5 blocks, shattering his career high of 2 that he set last Friday. 5 blocks are the most someone has had in a game by a Seminole since (I believe) Christ Koumadje had 5 blocks against Pitt in January 2019. Mercer shot under 40% from the floor, but only turned it over 7 times, something I expect Florida State to do a little better.
Once the game was tied at 66-66, FSU went on a 9-0 scoring run that included almost 4 scoreless minutes by Mercer. The defense really stepped up when it was needed, and I'm looking forward to the defense (especially while defending the 3) continuing to progress and get better. Mercer is a talented shooting team from deep, but they're lucky that the Bears were just 10/15 from the FT line.
Finally, we saw Florida State win a rebounding battle convincingly, though I'm still not thrilled about letting Mercer grab 10 offensive rebounds. The early second half was concerning. FSU led 42-34 at the break, but found themselves down 53-52 just 8 minutes into the half. The next 7 minutes were as back and forth as it can get as the lead would change 8 times over the next four minutes. FSU took a small 4-point lead before Mercer came right back and tied it at 66.
FSU was led in scoring by Cam'Ron Fletcher, who scored a career-high 23 points on just 12 shots, including 3/3 from deep, and grabbed 6 rebounds as well. His previous career high was 17. You can tell he cares, and that matters when they're coming off of the loss they had against Florida.
Matthew Cleveland looked much better in this one, scoring 18 points on 10 shots, and is quietly 15/21 from the free throw line to start the season. If he can continue that kind of percentage, it really changes the dynamic of his game.
Naheem McLeod looked spry in this one, finishing with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 assists. He could've been a little better on the glass and with his decision-making, but overall I liked what I saw from him.
I also really liked what I saw out of Chandler Jackson in his 10 minutes. He had a really nice backdoor baseline cut in the first half and used it to kick to an open man in the corner. His court awareness is special, and he's the closest thing FSU has to a true point guard. I really want to see his minutes pick up as the weeks progress.
I thought the offense was helter-skelter at times, but they still scored 1.246 points per possession in this game. If they can clean up the 9/19 on layups and continue taking smart 3s, the potential is there to be a decent offense.
It's good to see the guys win a game again. I was really worried they were going to roll over after falling apart against Florida, and it looked like they might again in this one. But they fought back, got the win, and can take a little bit of a breather.
They'll travel to Orlando next for the ESPN Invitational where they'll start the tournament against Sienna on Thursday at 11 am.
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