The scouting report is out. Since Aaron Thomas was sent to the hospital at halftime of the UMass game, we've seen 2 1/2 games of basketball where the opposition sits back in a zone and dares Florida State to shoot. That strategy backfired in The Citadel game when Xavier Rathan-Mayes went 5-5 from the arc, but tonight vs Charleston Southern it worked as designed. The problem for the Buccaneers was that FSU's defense finally showed up.
XRM came out of the gate and knocked down a 3-pointer, but from there on the team struggled to shoot (2-16 from three for the game). FSU got a bit of offense by pounding the ball inside, but the real key to the game was defense. After allowing CSU several open looks from three to start the game (which luckily, they only made one), the Noles figured out their rotations and did a much better job either contesting 3s or forcing Charleston Southern to shoot from NBA range. The Noles built a comfortable lead at 29-14, but CSU nailed a 28-foot three at the halftime buzzer to cut the lead to 12.
From there the game settled into a predictable rhythm, with each team trading buckets and defensive stops. But midway through the 2nd half 5-8 senior Saah Nimley suddenly began playing inspired basketball, making numerous nice kick-outs off of drives and CSU cut the lead to three, at 39-36.
A loose ball followed, and 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky and the 5-8 Nimley both grabbed control of the ball and wouldn't let go. They crashed to the floor, taking a ref with them, and all the players on the court jumped in. No punches were thrown, but two technicals were called, and Bojo was clearly upset by the whole thing. So he did what we've rarely seen him do at Florida State - he started playing physical, aggressive basketball. In a minute and a half stretch he had five rebounds, a block, and knocked down two free throws after being fouled. FSU went on a 10-0 run and took control of the game.
The Noles would win 58-47, and advance their record to 3-3.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes led FSU in scoring (16) for the 3rd straight game, but it was inefficient and he wasn't nearly as assertive as he was in the past game. He had four rebounds and four assists, but also six turnovers. Montay Brandon had nine points and five rebounds, and Dayshawn Watkins, who played his best basketball of the year (earning the 2nd half start) had seven points and eight rebounds.
CSU took a remarkable 31 3-pointers, and made eight (26%). They were also limited to just 8-23 2s (35%).
FSU will now host Nebraska on Monday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.