By JASON SCHNEIDER
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 25, 2002
TALLAHASSEE -- The Leonard Hamilton era officially has begun, and the Seminoles welcomed their new coach with a 79-46 victory Sunday over Savannah State.
Junior forward Michael Joiner and junior college transfer Nate Johnson hit 3-pointers as FSU opened a 24-7 lead 12 minutes into the game.
Up 36-18 at the half, the Seminoles played solidly, never allowing the Tigers within 20 points.
"Offensively, I know we are a much better perimeter shooting team than what we showed. We had a lot of open looks, but we just couldn't get them to fall," Hamilton said. "A large part of that is that our two best shooters, Andrew Wilson and Tim Pickett, need a few more games to get really comfortable."
The defense, a trademark of Hamilton teams, forced Savannah State into 32 turnovers, which lead to 40 FSU points.
The Seminoles gambled frequently on defense while players learn Hamilton's philosophy.
"We just need time to start developing our system," Hamilton said. "I thought the guys were trying to do what we've been telling them. They were hustling, but we did make a lot of mistakes, which is what is going to happen when you try to learn and play this type of defensive system."
Pickett led all scorers with 16, but was 7-for-19 from the floor. He said he was too excited about his first game with an Atlantic Coast Conference team after averaging 21 points at Indian River Community College in an MVP season.
"I had to tell myself to slow down," Pickett said. "I was rushing everything. I just took a little chill pill and came down."
Hamilton said: "Tim was about as hyper as a guy can be. That's good though because that means that his heart is in the right place and he's focused and he cares and he wanted to do well. I think he was a little emotional, and that's understandable."
The Seminoles had three other players in double figures: Joiner and Richardson with 10 and Andrew Wilson with 11.
"We don't have a whole lot of room for error," Hamilton said. "We need to be hitting on all cylinders for us to be effective. We are not the kind of team that can allow players to take nights off.'
Savannah State is not much of a measuring stick for the Seminoles after finishing last season 2-26, but it was FSU's steady improvement during the preseason that gives Hamilton hope.
"For our first game, our effort was good," Hamilton said. "I thought the guys were really focused. ... We were not as sound as I would have liked us to have been, but I really liked the effort."