Polite helps No. 21 Florida State beat Gardner-Webb 72-59

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A tired Florida State team had to grind through a surprising challenge from Gardner-Webb. But the Seminoles found a way to win and now can take a breather.

Anthony Polite scored a career-high 15 points and Balsa Koprivica added a season-best 14 as No. 21 Florida State pulled away late to defeat Gardner-Webb 72-59 on Monday night.

Polite scored in double figures for the fourth straight game. The redshirt junior guard did so just six times in the 2019-20 season.

The Seminoles (5-1) outrebounded Gardner Webb 53-30. Polite grabbed nine boards, while Koprivica and RaiQuan Gray added eight apiece.

Florida State lost a pair of NBA lottery picks from last season’s squad, with Patrick Williams getting drafted by Chicago and Devin Vassell by San Antonio. Starting point guard and team leader Trent Forrest also moved on to the NBA, signed by Utah as an undrafted free agent.

Coach Leonard Hamilton said the Seminoles are still figuring out chemistry, rotations and responsibilities as veterans have been asked to fill larger roles and newcomers are taking the court in critical moments, too.

“It takes a while to adjust when these roles are being changed,” Hamilton said. “You have four guys stepping into new roles. It’s a transition period.

“I like to think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Despite a loss to UCF on Saturday, the Seminoles have weathered the storm as well as can be expected going into the holiday break. Despite another sluggish start, Florida State shot 24 of 32 (75%) from the free throw line to put the game away.

A 7-foot-1 sophomore center, Koprivica was able to use his height advantage, shooting 4 of 5 from the floor and going 6 for 6 at the free throw line. Gray scored just four points but made an impact on the defensive end with eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Well-rounded efforts from Polite, Koprivica and Gray ensured the Seminoles would go into the break with positive momentum.

“We definitely answered the challenge,” Polite said. “We took it personal. The team that showed up against UCF is not us. We were able to show what we were capable of.”

Lance Terry had 23 points for Gardner-Webb (1-4), which did not score in the final 2:42. Terry was 8 of 19 from the floor.

Florida State is 60-14 since the start of 2018-19 season.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida State slid from No. 15 to No. 21 on Monday and this win likely will do little to impress voters.

HOMECOMING

Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft returned to his hometown for the first time as a college basketball coach. Craft is a graduate of nearby Florida High. Since taking over as coach in the 2013-14 season, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have upset Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Purdue and Nebraska.

TAKEAWAYS

Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs came in shooting 40% from 3-point range but were just 9 of 33 (27%) against the Seminoles.

Florida State: The Seminoles won despite going 6 of 33 (18%) from 3-point range. They had made at least eight 3s in every game this season.

UP NEXT

Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs break for the holidays and will play at Hampton on Dec. 30.

Florida State: The Seminoles have a break for the holidays and will play at Clemson on Dec. 29.

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