NEW YORK -- Paging Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams: Leonard Hamilton’s bunch will be a pain in the neck again this year.
Florida State has recovered from a stunning season-opening loss with three straight victories, capped off by a 73-66 win over St. Joseph’s in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the Barclays Center.
A night after blowing out a BYU squad expected to contend in the WCC, the Seminoles got a stiffer challenge from the Hawks, picked to win the Atlantic 10. Florida State led by just four at halftime, trailed by four early in the second half, and the game was still tied at 52 at the under-12 media timeout.
But Florida State took control from there. Star guard Michael Snaer, who was named the tournament MVP, had another solid game, with 14 points. But the real difference-makers were junior forwards Okaro White (16 points) and Terrance Shannon (15 points, 11 rebounds). Shannon came off the bench, and scored 11 of his 15 in the second half.
Hamilton said Shannon requested to come off the bench this season -- he likes to watch the game unfold for a few minutes, and then provide a spark.
He certainly did that Saturday, and could be a key player for the Seminoles this year, after missing almost all of last season with a shoulder injury.
“He’s very capable,” Hamilton said. “I’m not surprised by what he’s done at all.”
Nine different Florida State players scored Saturday, with four players making it into double figures. No one took more than 13 shots, and the team had 21 assists on 30 made field goals.
“We have capable passers, but we need willing passers,” said Snaer, who took just 12 shots. “We need guys who are willing to make that next pass and make that next play, and get the other man off. If we all do that, then everybody is feeding off each other and we’re all eating at the end of the day.”
“I was especially pleased with the unselfish spirit our guys played with,” Hamilton said.
St. Joseph’s still accomplished something on this trip up the turnpike to Brooklyn, taking home an impressive 79-70 win over No. 20 Notre Dame in the semifinals Friday night.
That game went to overtime, and ended well after midnight. But St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli wasn’t interested in making excuses after the game.
“You could write that if you want,” Martelli said. “I don’t believe that. I don’t accept it. … You have to empty your tank, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Ronald Roberts Jr. followed up a 21-point, 16-rebound performance against the Fighting Irish with a 15 points and 11 boards against the Seminoles. But the Hawks shot just 16-for-26 from the foul line, and 4-for-21 from beyond the arc.
As for Florida State, after losing its opener at home to South Alabama eight days ago, people wondered if the Seminoles -- coming off their first ACC tournament win ever last March -- were going to take a dip this year.
They were picked to finish fifth by the conference’s coaches, and fourth in the media poll. But Hamilton did lose four starters from last year -- perhaps that would be too much to overcome?
Instead, the Seminoles head home to Tallahassee with their heads held high, and high expectations re-established.
“I think we have a bunch of talented youngsters (and) that we’re still trying to find our way,” Hamilton said. “We’re not really in sync offensively, and as a coach I’m still trying to find the right rotations, trying to define roles with these guys.
“We’re still kind of a work in progress,” the coach added. “What I’m hopeful of is that we can continue to keep winning while we’re trying to find ourselves. I think we have pretty good potential.”
Duke, North Carolina and company -- consider yourselves warned.