If you wonder why Leonard Hamilton puts so much emphasis on defense, the UMass-FSU game was your answer. The Noles made 14% of their 3s, 61% of their free throws, and turned the ball over 17 times.
Oh, and they beat the No. 20 team in the nation, who entered the game 10-0.
It's fitting that the key play came not on an FSU player making a defensive stop, but rather on a coaching call by Leonard Hamilton (but more on that in a moment).
An up and down, aesthetic game was expected, but that's far from what was delivered. The game was disjointed. The refs called ticky-tack crap 40 feet from the basket and pretty much let each team punch the other in the face around the rim (and I mean that literally in the case of Ian Miller nearly getting knocked out on a no-call). When either team found rare open shots, they missed. There weren't many dunks. There weren't many jumpers. This was just a grinder.
FSU led by 2 at halftime and, with the exception of the game's final 2.1 seconds, the entire second half was played as a tie or one possession game. UMass led 53-50 when Montay Brandon made a beautiful dish to Bojo to cut the lead to one. After a stop, Ian Miller scored his first points of the game to give FSU a 1-point lead. UMass scored on the other end, and then Miller drove, got fouled, and made both freebies.
During a UMass timeout they must have been discussing how to go 2-for-1. There was 1:06 left in the game, and having two possessions to FSU's one would be a good advantage. The Minutemen inbounded the ball, went to set up their half court offense, and saw that FSU was in a zone for the first time in several games. UMass should have called a timeout, but they tried to play through it instead and turned the ball over.
Give Leonard Hamilton a ton of credit for his decision to switch to a zone out of the previous timeout. UMass was baffled, turned it over.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) December 21, 2013
FSU scored on the other end, then got a stop. Aaron Thomas hit two free throws to ice it. Ball game.
Aaron Thomas led all scorers with 18 points. Okaro White was the other Nole in double figures with 10. Michael Ojo, who battled cramps much of the 2nd half, had 7 points and 8 rebounds, while Bojo had 7 blocks and 5 rebounds. Montay Brandon had 8 points and 9 rebounds.
FSU is now 8-3 with a really solid out of conference resume. UMass was undefeated and entered the game as the No. 1 RPI team in the nation.