“They’re a Final Four team,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said. “They’ve got a chance to go as far as they want.”
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton wasn’t ready to agree with that assessment.
“I’m not sure I can feel that good about what we’ve done,” Hamilton said. “We have potential. We’re still not a well-oiled machine yet.”
But when the Seminoles shoot like they did against the Billikens, they’ll be tough to beat.
Kabengele had the play of the game when he scored on a twisting drive that ended with a one-handed flip off the backboard. Mann scored 17 points, including a pair of dunks in the final 30 seconds that drew the biggest response from the crowd.
“That was for the fans,” Nichols said. “He got everybody excited.”
Nichols led the Seminoles from beyond the arc by going 4 for 7. The Seminoles came into the game shooting 32 percent from 3-point range, including 3 for 23 in their most recent outing.
“I think we’re a pretty good perimeter shooting team,” Hamilton said. “But I was beginning to wonder.”
Saint Louis (8-4) suffered its most lopsided loss of the season. The Billikens shot only 30 percent — their season low, and the best effort yet by Florida State’s defense.
“Our guys were extremely aggressive,” Hamilton said. “We were a little more disruptive than in some of our other games.”
Saint Louis went more than seven minutes without a basket and fell behind 25-8 midway through the first half. Nichols’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half made it 40-25.
The margin stayed in double digits the rest of the way, peaking at 71-43 late in the second half.
Javon Bess had 16 points and Carte’Are Gordon 14 for the Billikens. They finished with a season-low three 3-pointers on 14 attempts.
Nichols helped the Seminoles’ bench outscore Saint Louis’ reserves 43-13.
“They keep running guys at you,” Ford said. “This is the first team that’s actually handled us. They had a little more than we did. I haven’t said that for 11 other games.”
Last year the Seminoles were unbeaten until they lost in the Orange Bowl Classic to Oklahoma State on a tip-in with six seconds left. They made sure there would be no upset this time, taking the lead for good in the game’s second minute.
The Seminoles are likely to climb to at least No. 10 next week, which would match their season high.
Florida State guard M.J. Walker bumped his knee in the first minute, left the game and didn’t return. His injury isn’t believed to be serious, Hamilton said.
Forward Phil Cofer, who missed Florida State’s first nine games with a foot injury, had seven points in 17 minutes.
Florida State has a nine-day Christmas break before playing host to Winthrop on Jan. 1.
Saint Louis concludes its nonconference schedule by hosting Appalachian State on Dec. 30.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine