With the second and final exhibition game in the books, here is the breakdown. After the first game I focused on individual players. I'll still weave a little of that in here, but this one will focus much more on the overall team. If you would like a good individual breakdown, see FSUcyberpunks run down in the Basketball Thread here.
The game started with the same starting 5 as game 1: Miller, Whisnant, Snaer, White, Turpin. It was sloppy on both sides early and often, with St. Leo jumping out to a 7-2 lead. (Would have been 9-2, but Turpin had his best play of the game in the first 2 minutes with a nice transition block). However, going against his usual style, Ham didn't call timeout and instead let the boys figure it out on their own. I liked this move and it's a good sign that Ham trusts guys like Snaer, Miller, and White. The team responded with a 17-0 run, spanning two St. Leo timeouts, and the margin was a healthy 7-15 points for most of the rest of the night, despite massive subbing.
Offense: The offense looked really good during that 17-0 stretch. The ball moved much faster and usually with a purpose. Cuts were crisp and the tempo was pushed, allowing easy transition buckets. The rest of the night it was sloppy with spurts of scoring here and there. Much of this can be atributed to guys subbing virtually every two minutes, plus I'm sure practices have been rough. However, one thing I am noticing is that we simply cannot have a lineup that does not include at least one of White, Miller, or Snaer. Right now those guys make our engine run. Honestly, I think we need at least two of them in at all times, but if Bookert can come back healthy soon, I'm hoping he can stir the drink as well. Guys like Whisnant, Thomas, Brandon, and Shannon, they all have flashed abilities to score and they will certainly help us out this year, but without one of the big three in the ball gets stagnant and things just sort of break down. Hopefully we don't have a game with big time foul trouble.
The second half was far sloppier than the first. It seemed like we were trying to force stuff into the post too much, even when nothing was there. However, given that it was an exhibition, I wouldn't be suprised if Ham was just trying to get the bigs more touches. For the game, we didn't shoot particularly well in any area: 44.6% overall, 21.1% from three, and 68.8% from the stripe. Some of this was forced shots (mainly in the second half) and some again was likely tired legs. We turned the ball over 20 times in a 67 possession game, which equals a 29.8% turnover rate. That. Is. Bad. The good news is, 11 of the 20 were from just two guys (Miller and Thomas). The bad news is, we need those guys to be some of our primary ball handlers. Some were just a lack of focus (especially Thomas') and some were while trying to push the tempo and make a good play. Both of those will improve as the guys get more familiar with each other on the court. But either way, that number has got to come down.
Defense: If Coach Hamilton had hair, I'm betting it would turn grey after this season. The defense certainly displayed more intensity, which is good. And at times during the game the guys did a noticeably better job with their perimeter rotations and closing off passing angles. This led to many forced shots at the end of the shot clock for St. Leo, helping account for their abysmal 32% shooting on the night. However, the team overall allowed FAR too much easy penetration--often right down the center of the lane--which led to guys getting out of position and many easy buckets too. Make no mistake, we can be a good defensive team. But the guards HAVE to understand that there is no eraser back there. White and Gilchrist appear to be our best shot blockers and Gilchrist has a long way to go learning the system. This means that guards need to use their natural athleticism and stay in front of their men on the perimeter. It means they need to call out all screens. It means they need to help enough to allow their teammate to recover, but not so much to the point where they are losing sight of their man and allowing to much space to recover. And it means they have to stop leaving their feet trying to get a spectacular block and just defend their man. Really the whole team needs work on this--bigs included--but the young guards especially seem to be jumping themselves out of the play on every other trip down the court.
The other thing that simply must improve is blocking out and rebounding. Part of the reason FSU couldn't pull away in the second half, despite holding St. Leo to a low shooting percentage, was because they gave up SEVENTEEN offensive rebounds. White and Shannon did a nice job on the boards, as expected, but the other bigs have got to do a better job of establishing and maintaining position underneath. And when the rebounds are long (like many in the game were) guys with length like Brandon and Thomas need to make sure they are hanging back and getting their hands on the ball before turning up court to try and start a fast break. We are going to need to rebound as a team this year, meaning all hands on deck.
Other thoughts: Snaer was fantastic early on, and really stepped up vocally to ensure we didn't come out slow and fall too far behind. He had two nice looks on the first two possessions (both resulted in missed open shots, but great looks nonetheless), and then a perfect behind the back pass in transition to Miller for an easy lay-in. It wasn't showboating, it was just the right pass to make and he executed it very well.
Thomas is a born scorer, but he looked like a freshman last night. It happens.
Gilchrist is a bundle of energy and when he is in he just sort of disrupts things and mucks up the other team's offense with his length. But he has a lotof learning to do and got a pretty big earful after losing his man one time. Hopefully by January he is much more comfortable in the system, because he could give us the eraser we lack right now.
The team definitely looks more comfortable in transition this year, as there are just athletes everywhere. Even Boris and Ojo can run up and down the court. But we are still learning when it's most effective to push the tempo and when it;s best to just slow up. That will come and I think Bookert will help a lot in that department.
South Alabama is next and that game counts. FSU crushed them last year, but they return most of their club. They beat LSU last year in an early season game and I wouldn't be surprised if things are much closer this year with Noles. Snaer better have his boys ready from the tip.