TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Benji Bell scored 17 points in his first six games with Florida State. He more than doubled his season output on Sunday.
Bell `s 18 points led Florida State to a 75-58 win over Southeastern Louisiana. The junior, who led Northwest Florida State to the JUCO national championship last season, made four 3-pointers as he had his first double-figure game for the 6-2 Seminoles.
”I knew today was going to be an opportunity to showcase what I can do. But I didn’t know that I was going to do what I did tonight,” said Bell, who logged a season-high 26 minutes.
Bell’s previous season highs in points (9) and minutes (20) were in a Nov. 21 win over DePaul at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. Bell knew coming in that he was going to see extended minutes with Devon Bookert out due to a sprained wrist, but he also saw more due to Dwayne Bacon’s early foul trouble.
On a day when Florida State struggled from the field early, Bell helped settle things down and was 5 of 6.
”Benji is a very good jump shooter. I thought our guys did a good job of looking for him,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. ”He sees the floor well, he penetrates and finds people. But sometimes it takes junior college guys a little time to adjust. Now he’s more comfortable, he’s making pretty good decisions. He’s not hesitant. He’s not thinking, he’s reacting.”
Beginning a stretch of four games in eight days, Florida State looked rusty after having finals this past week. It trailed for the first 11 minutes before going on an 11-4 run to gain control.
The Seminoles led 54-37 with 9:17 remaining before the Lions went on an 11-1 run to get within seven. Southeastern Louisiana would get no closer as the Seminoles would lead by as many as 19 (75-56) with 1:24 remaining.
Malik Beasley, who is second in the nation in scoring by freshmen, added 16 points and has scored in double figures in all eight games. He also had eight rebounds, which ties a season high. Xavier Rathan-Mayes had seven points and tied a season-high with 11 assists.
Joshua Filmore led Southeastern Louisiana (2-8) with a game-high 19 points.
”They (FSU) made a couple shots, a couple perimeter shots. And then I think they picked their pressure up defensively. I think that translated into a little bit better offense,” Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Ladner said.
Bacon, who is third in the nation in freshmen scoring, had a season-low two points as he was just 1 of 6 from the field. It is only the second time in eight games that Bacon has not scored in double figures. … Both teams struggled form the field in the first half – Florida State was 9 of 27 and Southeastern Louisiana was 8 of 26. Both shot over 50 percent in the second half.
Florida State: The Seminoles made only 65.8 percent of their foul shots in the first three games (52 of 79) but have gone 96 of 126 (76.2 percent) in the past five games. They have shot 72 percent or better from the line in the past five.
Southeastern Louisiana: This was the Lions fourth game against a team from a Power Five conference. They will also face Georgia Tech on Dec. 21. Said Ladner: ”Florida State is an outstanding team. We’ve played an incredibly tough schedule. We’ve been to Texas A&M, TCU, Nebraska, and Cincinnati. Talent-wise, they are right there with A&M and Cincinnati, who I thought are the two best teams that we played so far.”
Florida State hosts Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Southeastern Louisiana is at Florida A&M on Tuesday.