Bulls struggle to hold onto ball in blowout loss to Seminoles
Senior guard Tony Watson hit five 3-pointers in the Bulls' 95-68 loss to Florida State Monday night. Spectrum File Photo
On Monday night, two teams with similar circumstances met in Tallahassee. Both had subpar efforts in their season-opening games after highly successful seasons. Both had a lot to prove in front of a nationally televised audience.
The Bulls (0-2) were unable to control the ball, as they fell on the road to an angry Florida State (1-1) team in a 95-68 rout at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The loss marks the first time Buffalo has dropped consecutive games to open the season since the 2003-04 campaign.
After being shocked at home to start the season, a 76-71 upset by South Alabama (1-0), the previously ranked (No. 25 prior to the loss) Seminoles came out firing on the defensive end and put pressure on the Bulls. FSU raced to a 20-9 lead.
Buffalo, victimized by the turnover bug in Saturday's loss to Princeton (1-0), suffered a repeat performance in its game against the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions. The Bulls coughed up 25 turnovers Monday night, which led to 34 points, including 12 in transition.
"It's hard to win a game when you give up 34 points on turnovers," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon.
After a 17-point deficit to start the second half, the Bulls tightened up on the defensive end and clawed their way back to an eight-point deficit. But with the score at 64-56 and 10:34 left in the second half, Florida State put the pressure on Buffalo and forced key turnovers to finally run away with the game on a 31-12 run.
The Seminoles finished the game shooting 59.6 percent from the field, something Witherspoon attributed to the Bulls' multitude of mistakes.
"When you keep turn the basketball over, you can't defend the breakaway dunk," Witherspoon said. "You look on paper and it says that they shot about 60 percent, but if they shoot that many breakaway lay ups they're going to shoot a high percentage."
A few Bulls players shined despite the large margin of defeat.
Sophomore forward Xavier Ford started for the first time in his career and had a breakout performance, scoring a career-high 16 points and grabbing four rebounds.
In his home state, senior guard Tony Watson put on a show for his family and friends, who traveled from St. Petersburg to Tallahassee to see him. He led the Bulls with a sharp-shooting performance from three-point range, making 5-of-7 and scoring 17 points. The rest of the team went 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. Watson added four rebounds and an assist in 28 minutes of play.
Junior forward Javon McCrea continued his impressive play to start the year, adding 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting. He converted in the paint over a tall Seminoles lineup, which features three players over 7 feet tall in the rotation.
The Bulls shot exactly 50 percent despite the loss, as they capitalized on multiple opportunities off backdoor cuts.
"If we completed passes, after three or four passes, we would get easier shots," Witherspoon said. "And we did. And we missed some easy shots. We probably missed five or six lay ups. We looked at what they did and didn't think it would keep us from getting good shots. But it was the basic passing and catching that got us in trouble."
The matchup was the first game in the NABC Coaches versus Cancer tournament. Tournament play heats up in Evansville, Ind. as the Bulls will now play three games in three days. The first will be Thursday, as they take on host Evansville (1-0). Tip off will be at 8 p.m.
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