A Little Magic Left: Noles Clip Cavaliers on Snaer's Shot

USA TODAY Sports

Okaro White played possessed in the first half, giving FSU a halftime lead for just the fourth time in conference play this season. Devon Bookert again looked brilliant at point guard, making spectacular passes in the half court set as well as displaying his three-point shooting prowess. Florida State’s defense showed signs of getting “it,” holding a pretty good Wahoo offense to 38% shooting. And something else happened that I just can’t…oh yeah, Michael Snaer continues his crusade to convince Michael Rogner that there is such a thing as “clutch.”

To paraphrase an often quoted saying, the definition of insanity is watching the same late game situation occur over and over again and expecting a different outcome. By this point, you’d be insane not to believe FSU senior guard Michael Snaer is going to come through when the clock is ticking down and victory rests in his wonderfully clutch hands.

“I think he hit a tough shot,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett. “He made a floater going to his left…it comes down to those situations, making a play.” Bennett further commented that in the huddle they knew who was going to get the ball.

“Snaer was kind of having his way and we put Joe [Harris] on him because…Joe is probably our best perimeter defender on a bigger guard.”

Asked if he thought Snaer’s basket was a difficult shot, freshman sensation Devon Bookert smiled and said, “He double-pumped, probably jumped five feet, wiggled the ball around, and shot with his opposite hand. So yeah, it was pretty hard.”

Coach Hamilton, as well as Bookert, commented that the play worked exactly as they drew it up on the sideline. “We wanted to run him along the baseline and free him up and give him the opportunity to get in the lane and either create for himself or create for someone else,” said Ham.

For Snaer, it seems like his late game heroics have become old hat.

“I was really thinking the whole time to just try to get him off-balance with the jab, and get to my left hand…and it worked out for me,” the senior said calmly.

Snaer later said, “I knew I was getting the ball at the end of the game, I knew that I’m gonna make a play; some way somehow you gotta make a play. Either I’m gonna shoot it or one of my teammates is gonna get open.”

While Snaer’s magic has become expected, the improved play of FSU’s was a pleasant surprise. In a snail paced 53 possession game, the Noles held their opponent to less than a point per possession for just the third time in the last 12 games. This accomplishment is even more impressive when you consider that UVA is the 39th most efficient offense in the country.

Coach Bennett attributed much of his offense’s struggles to the fact that unlike in Charlottesville, FSU was able to prevent Virginia from scoring in transition (which was helped in large part by most of FSU’s turnovers being of the dead ball variety).

“You gotta work to get good looks…when they get you in a half-court game and they’re locked in, it’s hard to score the ball,” said the visiting coach. “It’s hard to get in the post, because they front the post.”

Coach Bennett also gave plenty of praise to Snaer, FSU’s unquestioned defensive leader, calling him “a heck of a defender.”

Meanwhile, Coach Hamilton credited the improved play to better overall teamwork and guys grasping the system more.

“I thought our defense stepped up tonight and was the key to us having an opportunity to win this game,” said Ham. “Their offense has a lot of movement in it, a lot of ball screens, and then all their players are interchangeable. In order to defend that type of system…they had to stay focused, talk, and communicate… [it was] the best job all year.”

Exemplifying the struggles of the Cavalier offense was the performance of their biggest scoring weapon, Joe Harris. Harris, who torched Duke for 36 points last week, only scored 13 points on 5-15 shooting, working hard for every look he got.

Asked if there was a specific intent to key in on Harris, Snaer said, “Definitely. When you got a guy who scores as much points for them as he does…you really want to contain a big part of their offense and that’s what he is. We did a great job of just helping and making sure he didn’t find a good rhythm.”

So where does this leave FSU with just one regular season game to play? Well, at 16-14, FSU is assured of a non-losing season for the 8th consecutive year. And thanks to another dose of Snaer’s clutch goodness, FSU now has a chance to finish with a .500 record or better in league play for the 5th consecutive season—despite a point differential of -114 in their 17 ACC games. However, after the game, Snaer hit on what is probably the most important thing when he talked about giving the young guys confidence that this team can not only play with but also beat some of the top teams in the conference.

That confidence could pay big dividends down the road—whether that’s this year in the ACC Tournament, or next season when “Money Ball Mike” is gone and the youngsters on this team will be counted on to make key plays in close games. And that could end up being Michael Snaer’s biggest legacy of all.

Other Quotes and Notes:

“Got some good looks, but struggling to hit shots.” –Coach Bennett. Despite the improved defense, this is true, and it was nice to see a team not red hot against us for once this season.

“They really flood and they come after the ball…it opens things up.” ---Coach Bennett on why UVA was finding success on the offensive glass.

“He’s an athlete that sometimes doesn’t play with that type of athleticism.” –Coach Ham on Okaro’s tremendous block and offensive put back and how he wants to see that from him more consistently.

“He (montay) moved the ball very well.” –Coach Ham when asked why Montay played more this game. Snaer also commented that Brandon looked more comfortable out there knowing he didn’t have to run the offense the whole time.

“We think he (Turpin) has only scratched the surface of his potential.” –Coach Ham

“Tonight we showed signs of that junkyard dog defense that we’ve played over the years.” – Coach Ham

Okaro had 13 of FSU’s 26 first half points, and 5 of FSU’s 14 first half rebounds.

FSU is now 7-0 in games decided by 3 points or less this season. 14-2 in those games over the last two years, 12-0 in ACC/ACCT games.

According to the UVA beat reporter, Virginia has now lost 17 straight games in the state of Florida, and hasn’t beat FSU in Tallahassee since 2001.

Coach Hamilton talked a bit about mixing up our defense in certain situations just for this game, specifically by not extending the pressure as much at certain times. Additionally, Snaer had some insightful comments about how he’s had to adjust this season without any other experienced players, much like Toney had to in 2009. I’m going to try and upload these comments into an audio file later this evening.

FSU has a quick turnaround and tips off for their last regulation game tomorrow at 2pm against NCSU. If you live in or near Tally, you should definitely come out and pay tribute to Michael Snaer, as it is his Senior Day. The California native took a chance on a rising program and has helped take it to new heights, and has been an even better person off the court. His mom and daughter will be in attendance.

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