The Daily Nole

Preview: FSU Gets Early Test Against Iona athletics

The season-opener went as planned for Florida State as the Seminoles mowed through Charleston Southern on Saturday, 88-67. FSU will be back in action on Tuesday, but the competition is beefed up this time around as the Noles host Iona.

Iona finished 22-10 last season and as MAAC champions before being bounced by Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64. Iona returns two of its top three scorers from last season. Tuesday’s contest will be the season-opener for the Gaels. FSU defeated the Gaels 54-49 in the 2009 Old Spice Classic — the last meeting between the schools.

The Match-Up

Who: Iona Gaels (0-0) at Florida State Seminoles (1-0)
When: Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. EST (ACC Network Extra)
Where: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, FL

Key Players

For Iona: Senior forward Jordan Washington is the Gaels’ top returning scorer from a season ago. Last season, Washington averaged better than 14 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field and is a very good player inside at 6-8 and 235 pounds. Junior Deyshonee Much is a match-up nightmare at 6-5. Much averaged 13 points per game last season and shot nearly 45 percent from deep. A Buffalo transfer, Much scored more than 20 points five times last season.

For Florida State: After leading the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman, guard Dwayne Bacon picked up where he left off on Saturday with 23 points and nine boards. Xavier Rathan-Mayes has led the team in assists in each of his first two seasons and finished with seven dimes on Saturday to go along with 12 points. Highly-touted freshman Jonathan Isaac scored 10 points and led the team with three steals on Saturday.

What to Watch For

FSU defense: Florida State played well defensively in its first game of the season, holding Charleston Southern to just 40 percent shooting. Iona on the other hand, averaged nearly 80 points per game last season and can really score. FSU ranked just 13th out of 15 ACC teams in fewest points per game allowed and field goal percentage defense. Tuesday should provide some insight as to how far FSU has really come.

FSU size advantage: With 7-1 Michael Ojo and 7-4 Christ Koumadje manning the middle for Florida State, there aren’t many teams bigger than the Seminoles. Iona doesn’t have a player taller than 6-9 and Tuesday could provide FSU a chance to take significant advantage of its size. Despite having 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky last season along with the two aforementioned, the Seminoles weren’t always strong on the glass or the block. Washington is very good inside despite being only 6-8 and could give the Seminoles a real challenge.

3-point shooting: Iona made the ninth most 3-pointers last season at 10 per game and defending the perimeter wasn’t always a strong suit for the Seminoles. The Gaels also shot at a respectable 37 percent clip from deep. Iona is losing leading 3-point shooter A.J. English, but Much can fill it up from deep. FSU held Charleston Southern to just 7-for-25 from downtown on Saturday. The Seminoles themselves however, were just 7-for-21 from beyond the arc and just 1-for-11 if you exclude Bacon and Isaac.

Sam Cassell Jr.: Playing guard for Iona will be a name that Florida State fans should recognize. Connecticut transfer Sam Cassell Jr. will be making his debut for the Gaels on Tuesday night. Cassell averaged just 2.2 points per game last season for the Huskies. Cassell is the son of former FSU guard Sam Cassell who played two seasons for the Seminoles and helped FSU reach the Elite Eight in 1993. Cassell went on to play 15 seasons in the NBA and for three champions. The younger Cassell will have a chance to showcase his skills at his dad’s old stomping grounds.

Number to Pay Attention To:

78.9: That’s Florida State’s free throw percentage from the opener against Charleston Southern as the Seminoles went 15-for-19 from the charity stripe. Last season, FSU shot just 69.5 percent as a team.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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