Kevin C. Cox
I’m lost. Not in the “can’t find my way” sense, but in a “trying to learn Leonard Hamilton’s defensive principles on the fly as a freshman” sense. I took a while after the game to complete this article because I was trying to process what exactly it was I just watched. And for a while I just didn’t know what to say or how to explain it—which my friends would attest to that being about as common as a good offensive possession for FSU in this game.
So, after struggling to put finger pads to letters I decided to just let Coach Hamilton do most of the talking, while I would stick to some of the interpreting.
"Tonight I thought we ran into one of the better teams we have played since I have been at FSU."
----Have to agree with Coach here. UF looks like a legit Final Four team. As Rogner pointed out in the preview, we knew they were talented. But they looked calm, experienced, and very comfortable in the system Billy D is utilizing—especially on defense where they showed several different looks and executed them all to perfection.
"They capitalized on every mistake we made early in the game…we kept shooting ourselves in the foot."
-----Couldn’t say it better myself. At halftime we had 15 points and 13 turnovers. We trailed by more points than we had scored. We only made 5 field goals.
"We are still a work in progress."
"Mentally and physically we are not the same guys we were two weeks ago."
-------This is key. It’s obvious when you watch the guys play, but it’s still nice to see that Coach at least has his pulse on the team and admits it. They just looked like they lost confidence in the strengths that each guy brings to the table and after UF punched them in the mouth, sort of had that deer in the headlights look.
"We can’t hide behind being youthful and inexperienced forever. Need our veterans to hold the fort down…be a little more consistent."
-----Absolutely. I’m thrilled to see guys like Okaro White and Michael Snaer coaching up the kids after mistakes—even after the outcome was no longer in question they were still finding teachable moments—but at some point they need to step up as veterans and start taking over games. Three points and five rebounds between them in the first half just isn’t going to cut it. Five combined field goals in the game isn’t going to cut it. Six attempted free throws (to their credit all six were made) between them isn’t going to cut it.
"We had 6 seniors last year who had been around long enough…to not allow themselves to be affected mentally and emotionally."
-----Again, it’s good to see that Ham has a pulse on the team. Somehow he has to figure out how to keep this team confident and not let a 7-0 run turn into a 20-2 barrage that buries them.
"Have to pare down what we are doing in our schemes."
-----Good, because the guys are clearly thinking too much right now and not doing what they do best—what we saw them do in Brooklyn—make plays. The best the offense looked all night was in the last 6 minutes when the game was out of reach and guys were just driving and shooting without over-thinking. Thomas looked much better off the bench late in the game, so maybe he is starting to "get it."
"Ojo is making progress…might see him a bit more in the future."
------Good, because we desperately need a more physical presence underneath. Patric Young is a monster for UF, so he will abuse a lot of players. But I honestly thought he would hurt Bojo if he got more minutes. Turpin and White couldn’t do much against him either. If we are going to slow down guys like Plumlee, Richard Howell, Alex Len, and Reggie Johnson come ACC season, it is imperative that Michael Ojo becomes at least serviceable for 3-6 minute stretches in both halves. Coach Ham also gave Robert Gilchrist some praise, saying he was encouraged by his first half minutes when White was (again) in foul trouble. Thought Gilchrist looked more confident in the system and it allowed him to take advantage of some of his athleticism.
"Late in the game I turned to my assistant coaches and asked ‘can we really be this bad?’"
------We were all thinking it, but I couldn’t believe that Ham actually said it. To answer the rhetorical question, no I don’t believe we are as bad as we looked against UF. But, in order for us to reach our potential we are going to have to really take advantage of the next month of practice and games against somewhat weaker competition. The ACC gave us no favors with our early season conference schedule and with the young guys being as fragile emotionally as Ham alluded to, I don’t want to see what happens if we drop 2 or 3 more games before mid-January.
The good news is (yes, I am an eternal optimist) there were a few positives to take away from the game.
1. UF is REALLY good and we actually gave them some problems on offense. Michael mentioned in the instant analysis that this was the 2nd worst offensive performance on the season. Billy Donovan said after the game that it "was very very physical...hard to come by baskets for both teams." He also commented on high our perimeter defense caused some problems and they were fortunate that Mike Rosario "bailed [them] out some." This is good news, as it is back-to-back solid defensive efforts for the Noles. Maybe some of the young guys are starting to pick things up on that end of the court.
2. Robert Gilchrist and Aaron Thomas looked the best I have seen this season.
3. Both Coach Ham and Okaro White said all the right things after the game. White talked about getting better every day in practice, understanding that the season is still very young and how playing in the ACC gives them plenty of chances to get resume building wins. But right now, the focus is just on getting the young guys mentally right and getting everyone on the same page.
4. Andrew Wiggins and the whole Wiggins family seemed to really enjoy themselves.
5. We might only play one other team this year on the level of UF. The freshmen have sort of been thrown to the wolves this season, but hopefully they can learn from this experience and build on it as the season progresses.
6. In the post-game, Billy D talked extensively about being willing to give up the 8-10 footers in the lane in exchange for aggressively defending the perimeter and under the basket. Then, Coach Ham talked a lot about our guys taking what the defense gave them and trying to hit those 8-10 footers. This at least shows that the offense was identifying the weakness in the opposing defense and attacking it. The problem tonight was execution and either: a) turning it over before we even crossed half court, or b) missing the 8-10 foot shots.