Florida State University

Florida State’s depth makes difference in OB victory over Manhattan

Manhattan Jaspers guard Aaron Walker Jr. (11) struggles to keep the ball as Florida State Seminoles center Michael Ojo (50) and guard Dwayne Bacon (4) defend as Florida State University plays Manhattan Jaspers at BB&T Center during the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic at BB&T Center on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016.
Manhattan Jaspers guard Aaron Walker Jr. (11) struggles to keep the ball as Florida State Seminoles center Michael Ojo (50) and guard Dwayne Bacon (4) defend as Florida State University plays Manhattan Jaspers at BB&T Center during the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic at BB&T Center on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Florida State heard the Manhattan Jaspers before the Seminoles saw them.

Pretty soon after that, the Seminoles felt their opponents, too, and there could be no doubt that the Jaspers were ready to play and planning a massive upset.

“Our locker room is right next to theirs,” FSU forward Dwayne Bacon said of the setup at the BB&T Center in Sunrise for the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. “We heard them before the game, just yelling. They definitely had a lot more energy than we did in the first half.”

Fortunately for the 23rd-ranked Seminoles, that trend did not last. FSU picked up its energy in the second half and rolled to an 83-67 victory on Saturday afternoon. The Seminoles (11-1) won their seventh game in a row.

Manhattan (3-8) gave FSU problems in the first half, shooting 56.5 percent from the floor, including 4 of 9 on three-pointers. Manhattan also had a 13-9 edge in points off turnovers and trailed just 46-41 at the half.

But the Seminoles, who are off to their best start since 2008-09, are built on depth. They have 13 players who all average double figures. Nobody averages more than 27 minutes, and that type of relentless personnel eventually wore down Manhattan.

FSU is so deep that 7-foot starting center Michael Ojo played only nine minutes despite going 3 for 3 from the floor. He wasn’t injured, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said — it was just a matchup thing that limited Ojo to one second-half minute.

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said he has no doubt that FSU will make the NCAA Tournament, something the Seminoles haven’t done since 2012.

“They can hurt you in so many ways,” Masiello said. “They have guys who can really shoot it. They have great length. They have great athleticism. They have great bigs who do their jobs.

“I think they are so well coached. Leonard is playing 13 guys. I asked Leonard before the game, ‘Do you have a psychology degree? Because I don’t know how you are managing all this.’

“To have 13 talented guys like that and to have them all buy in — they share the ball. I think that team can be really dangerous.”

Bacon led the Seminoles with 16 points, but FSU got contributions from everywhere. Jonathan Isaac added nine points, nine rebounds and four steals, making all five of his free-throw attempts.

FSU captain Terance Mann, known for his hustle, added nine points on 4-of-5 shooting with five rebounds and three steals. And Trent Forrest scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.

The Seminoles shot 56.3 percent from the floor and outrebounded Manhattan 37-23. They had a 46-22 edge in points in the paint and a 17-4 advantage on second-chance points.

Perhaps nobody exemplified FSU’s depth more than Jarquez Smith, who played just 10 minutes but managed two blocks.

“I like their team — there’s a reason they’re 11-1,” Masiello said. “I think they are going to surprise people in [the Atlantic Coast Conference].”

MIAMI’S PEART STARTS FOR MANHATTAN

Junior center Zavier Peart, a Miami native who played at Coral Reef High, was given his first career start by Masiello. Peart had no points or rebounds and four fouls in 15 minutes.

Peart, who is listed at 6-10 and 270 pounds, had not played in the previous two games, which was a coach’s decision.

“He’s very talented — he’s lost 37 pounds since he’s been with us,” Masiello said. “He has to understand the urgency at this level.

“I think he’s gotten the message. He’s back home in Florida, and he had a great week of practice. I was very proud of him, and I wanted to give him a reward.”

Asked if the start had more to do with Peart’s hard work or being in his hometown, Masiello said: “It’s an amazing thing. Florida puts everyone in a good mood. I was in a really good mood this weekend.

“But if he weren’t practicing well, he wouldn’t be starting.”

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