FSU's trademark defense was completely invisible when the season began. Slowly though, the new kids began to turn the corner. They began executing. They were in the right place. Still, the defense was lacking a key ingredient: intensity. At least until today.
Michael Snaer was asked to pressure the Clemson point guard from baseline to baseline. With the point guard constantly under duress the rest of the team's job is to be in a help position where they can jump the passing lane or double at any moment. And as much as I enjoy watching FSU make shots - nothing puts a smile on my face quicker than FSU's defense looking on the court the same as it looks in Coach Hamilton's head. FSU forced 13 turnovers against a team which prides itself on ball control, blocked five shots, and Clemson only had 9 assists on 21 made buckets.
FSU was all over Clemson from the tip. They made five of their first eight 3s and at one point led by 16 in the first half. The problem - if there can be one in a 16-point lead - was fouls. Clemson was in the bonus with 12 minutes left in the first half, while FSU would never get there. In what easily could have been a rout, Clemson was able to hang around and trailed by 13 at the break.
Michael Snaer made his first bucket of night on FSU's first possession of the 2nd half, and the lead was 16. But FSU picked up three quick fouls. A couple possessions later FSU had a remarkable four players with 3 fouls a piece, while Clemson didn't have anyone with more than one. And while I'd like to say that this was solely due to FSU's pressure, there were several calls were curious at best.
Clemson cut the lead to seven with 13 minutes to go, and from there the game was close. But FSU was able to maintain the lead, and led by 3 with :37 seconds left when Devon Bookert grabbed a rebound. Two players immediately mugged him, and Bookert did what players are taught to do from a young age - he ripped the ball across his body in an attempt to shield it from the defenders. And sure enough, Clemson was called with the foul.
Only instead of marching to the other end for free throws, the referring crew - led by the infamous Jamie Luckie - went to the scorer's table and spent several minutes at the monitor. When they emerged Bookert had been charged with a Flagrant Foul.
Luckily, it didn't matter. The team's traded a free throw each, and FSU got the critical stop when Clemson got to keep the ball due to the Flagrant.
The Noles pulled the upset, and are now 1-0 in the ACC.
Okaro White led the way with 15 points and 7 rebounds, and he seemed to be all over every loose ball in the game's final minutes. Terry Whisnant scored 11, and Terrance Shannon added 11 points and 8 rebounds.
Now the Noles travel to Maryland to take on a team which completely crushed Virginia Tech today.
Play of the Game:
Devon Bookert inbounds to Okaro White. Enjoy.