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Veterans, suffocating defense power Florida State past Penn in season-opener

FSU defeated Penn 105-70 in its season opener Wednesday night
FSU defeated Penn 105-70 in its season opener Wednesday night(247Noles)
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 12:17 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - As late as Monday, Malik Osborne’s status for Florida State’s season opener was far from a certainty. The senior forward had been battling the flu over the past week, but after FSU’s second exhibition game last week, Osborne told his coaches that there was no way he would miss Wednesday’s game.

Osborne had just two days of practice, which made it all the more impressive that he scored a career-high 18 points and tied a career-high with 13 rebounds in FSU’s 105-70 win over Penn. FSU has now won seven consecutive home openers.

Osborne was inserted into a different role last season with RaiQuan Gray and Balsa Koprivica blocking him in the frontcourt after starting 28 games during the 2019-2020 season. Now with both of them off to the NBA, Osborne is Florida State’s most experienced forward and showed he can be a primary option on this new-look Florida State team.

Osborne was a dominant presence inside Wednesday night with his 6-foot-9, athletic frame, while also showing the ability to stretch the floor. Perhaps, most impressive was his work on the offensive glass. He had 7 offensive rebounds, which led to plenty of opportunities at the free-throw line. Osborne converted on 9 of his 12 attempts at the charity stripe.

Joining Osborne in double figures was Anthony Polite (17 points, 6 rebounds, steal), RayQuan Evans (14 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals) and Caleb Mills (14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, block). The veteran quartet combined for 63 points, which was more than Penn’s entire team scored (59) by the time all of them had checked out of the game for the final time.

It was an impressive redemption game for Evans, who was heavily scrutinized for his inconsistency throughout last season. His 14 points were more than what he scored in all but one game last year. He was aggressive from the opening tip and showed he can be the type of playmaking guard that Florida State often lacked last season. Penn scored 0.81 points per possession when he was on the floor, which led all players.

Mills displayed the type of skillset that showed why he was named the AAC Preseason Player of the Year while at Houston last year. He had a slow start to the first half, making just 2-of-7 shots, but he scored 10 in the final 20 minutes on a much more efficient 4-of-6 from the field. His best offensive play of the night came midway through the second half where he broke a defender down with a nice inside-out move with his left hand and finished at the rim, plus the foul. There were also several times he got into the paint and kicked the ball out to open shooters after the defense collapsed to him. Mills looks like he will add an element of perimeter shot creation that FSU did not have last season.

Even more impressive was Mills’ effort on the defensive end. He forced a couple of turnovers with excellent defensive pressure far away from the basket and had a tremendous block on a 3-point attempt in the second half. Mills has touted himself as the best defender on the team, reiterating that sentiment after the game. FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton also said that his defensive skills have been a pleasant surprise.

As a team, the Seminoles had 15 steals on the evening, led by five from Kentucky transfer Cam’Ron Fletcher. Fletcher added nine points, four rebounds and two assists.

Florida State saw 13 different players score in the game and 16 different players entered the game. As a team, FSU was 37-of-75 (49.3%) from the floor, including 7-of-22 (31.8%) from deep. They made 24-of-34 (70.6%) of their free-throw attempts.

The Seminoles were without center Tanor Ngom, who is dealing with a concussion.

The Seminoles will return to action on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Florida.

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