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Freshman Koprivica Scores Career High As Noles Bounce UNF

Freshman Koprivica Scores Career High As Noles Bounce UNF
Posted at 12:18 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 00:18:53-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Under a steady barrage from the nation’s top 3-point shooting team, the Florida State men’s basketball team simply scored more.

And from everywhere on the floor.

Freshman Balsa Koprivica scored a career-high 15 points and was one of seven Seminoles to reach double figures in a 98-81 victory over North Florida on Tuesday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

UNF, which came into the game leading the nation in both 3-pointers attempted and made, connected on 13-of-34 from distance against the Seminoles.

But otherwise, the Ospreys couldn’t keep pace with Florida State, which improved to 9-2 and will play USF on Saturday (2 p.m., FS2) in the Orange Bowl Classic at BB&T Arena in Sunrise, Fla.
Recap: FSU 98, UNF 81

“This team has challenged us and stretched all our defensive fundamentals to the max,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They have a unique, special, challenging style of ball that you have to be on your defensive game in order to compete against.”

While UNF (7-6) did its expected damage from the 3-point line, it also made just 13 2-pointers.

The Seminoles, meanwhile, shot 56.9 percent from the floor, got enough from distance (6-of-19) and outrebounded the Ospreys 39-27.

That helped FSU to score 19 second-chance points and finish with 15 more baskets than UNF.

“It was good, I’m glad we had that matchup,” said FSU junior M.J. Walker, who had 12 points and three assists in 18 minutes. “Because throughout the rest of the season, we’re going to have to play teams that have good shooters, that knock down shots.”

The Ospreys knocked down plenty in the first half, which helped them to trail by just three points with about eight minutes to go before the break.

FSU responded with a run of its own, but, by halftime, UNF had made 9-of-17 from distance.

UNF’s Ivan Gandia-Rosa accounted for two of those first-half triples, and he’d go on to finish with four 3s and a game-high 23 points.

“We worked very hard on coming up with some defensive schemes to make sure we contested those shots,” Hamilton said. “But they executed so well that they were able to play to their strengths, and they got good looks in spite of our guys really, really playing hard.”

Hamilton expects to the Ospreys to challenge for the Atlantic Sun title and a spot in the NCAA tournament, which they’ve done regularly during the last few years of coach Matthew Driscoll’s tenure.

On Tuesday, though, their upset bid was undone by the stronger, more talented and ultimately deeper Seminoles.

That was made plain during the first few moments of the second half, when FSU scored nine of the period’s first 11 points.

With 11 players logging at least 10 minutes of game action – and six with at least 18 – the Seminoles led by as many as 21 points in the second half and kept the Ospreys at a comfortable distance the rest of the way.

The Seminoles flexed their depth with five players scoring exactly 11 points, and none more than Koprivica’s 15.

“(The Seminoles) have multiples players at every position that look the same and play the same,” UNF’s Driscoll said. “You probably have nine starters … (Playing against them is) sort of like salmon all the time. You’re going upstream.”

Tuesday also marked an impressive step forward for Koprivica, the 7-1 center who now has four double-digit scoring efforts in his young career.

A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Koprivica finished 6-of-8 from the floor and grabbed three rebounds.

“I told our staff that I’m seeing something develop there,” Hamilton said. “He’s responding to coaching. We’ve been challenging him. We’ve been holding accountable. We’ve been pushing him. And he’s eager to learn. He’s a sponge.”