Shrugging off the poor effort versus Syracuse, the Seminoles came out of the gate playing with passion and knocking down shots. After Devon Bookert's second three pointer the Noles led 18-10. But with as soft as FSU's defense has been, it felt like a Pitt answer was coming. Pitt found an answer. Then they found another. Then they found another. They outscored FSU 23-13 for the rest of the half, and then opened the second half on a 24-12 run. The Panthers grind out lengthy possessions, and at that point a double digit lead was too much to overcome. FSU went small for the final ten minutes, and they were able to cut the lead to six, but that was as close as they could get.
The problem was rebounding. In a season where Florida State's defensive rebound % is the best it has been for at least fifteen years, the Noles suddenly looked like last year's team, which was one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the nation. Pitt thrives on the offensive glass - they always have under Jamie Dixon - and tonight they grabbed 42% of their own misses. Despite being held to under 50% on 2s, and 30% on 3s, Pitt scored 1.24 points per possession, which is elite level offense. Most of it came on second chances.
Florida State has now given up more than a point per possession in four straight games. For reference, the class of Deividas Dulkys, Solomon Alabi, Chris Singleton, Luke Loucks, and Derwin Kitchen went their entire careers without letting that happen. And now FSU has NC State coming to town, and they have one of the best offenses in the nation.
The offense, except for one long drought to open the second half, actually played some of the best basketball of the season. But when the defense is that bad, it doesn't matter. Phil Cofer had a coming out party of sorts, finishing with the first of what should be many double doubles. He had a team high 21 points and 11 boards. Devon Bookert finished with 13 points on 3-6 3-pt shooting, and Montay Brandon added 12. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who spent quite a bit of time playing off the ball, didn't commit a single turnover and finished with eight points and three assists.
If FSU doesn't find some semblance of a defense, then the 9-year post season streak is over. And Aaron Thomas isn't walking through that door, so these players will have to figure out how to get it done.