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Koprivica, Olejniczak power No. 19 Florida State past North Florida

Centers capitalize on height, physical advantage during 98-81 victory

North Florida guard/forward Garrett Sams makes a shot as he is fouled by Florida State center Balsa Koprivica in the second half of a game in Tallahassee, Florida, Dec. 17, 2019. The Seminoles won 98-81.
North Florida guard/forward Garrett Sams makes a shot as he is fouled by Florida State center Balsa Koprivica in the second half of a game in Tallahassee, Florida, Dec. 17, 2019. The Seminoles won 98-81. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State is so deep at guard and forward that it hasn’t featured its 7-footers much this season. That changed on Tuesday night.

Balsa Koprivica scored 15 points and Dominik Olejniczak added 11 as both set season highs to lead No. 19 Florida State to a 98-81 victory over North Florida.

The centers were able to capitalize on their height and physical advantage, making shots in the lane and leading the Seminoles to a 39-27 rebounding edge.

“Neither one of those guys have been feature players on their teams in the past,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We’re putting them in positions where we need them to be consistent with their execution. And that’s not as easy as you would think. I thought they made a big difference. The fact that we were able to attack the interior opened up things for us.”

Koprivica, a freshman, was 6 of 8 from the floor and had more points than he did in the past four games combined. Olejniczak, a graduate transfer from Mississippi, shot 5 for 7 and reached double figures for the second time this season.

The development of Koprivica is encouraging. Hamilton has typically brought in talented but raw 7-footers from outside the United States, and the Serbian is coming along faster than expected.

“It’s amazing,” Olejniczak said. “Where he was when he got here -- big strides. His ceiling is unbelievably high. I’m just looking forward to seeing where the season takes him.”

M.J. Walker had 11 points, one of seven Seminoles who scored in double figures. Florida State (9-2) has won 12 straight home games in a streak that dates to last season.

North Florida came into the game with 149 made 3-pointers, which led Division I. The Ospreys went 9 of 17 from beyond the arc in the first half but were held to 4 for 17 in the second half.

Ivan Gandia-Rosa scored 23 points, knocking down four 3s, for North Florida (7-6). Garrett Sams added 20 points, also making four 3-pointers.

“We’re going to shoot 3s,” coach Matthew Driscoll said. “And I’m proud of that. We’re going to try to lead the country every year in made 3s.”

RaiQuan Gray had 11 points and five assists for Florida State, which shot 57% from the floor.