1. Quick Start and then...yikes: The game started with FSU deliberately working it into the paint and dividends were immediately returned. Not only did this result in a couple of easy buckets, it also caused early foul trouble for Mississippi State's best interior presence, Gavin Ware.
And then the Noles got careless. Sloppy open court passes led to Malik Beasley and Xavier Rathan-Mayes sitting next to the coaches. Poor outside shooting and shot selection led to easy run outs for Mississippi State. And college basketball's insistence on calling four moving screens a game negated the one dunk we had in the stretch. When the dust settled, four of the five Nole starters were on the bench getting the "glare" from Ham and FSU's 6-2 lead had turned into a 15-8 deficit.
Fortunately, a pair of seniors--Devon Bookert and Boris Bojanovsky--provided a steady hand and righted the ship. But against better teams, the young guns have got to learn that basketball is a 40 minute game. A six minute lapse in focus against Duke is how you go from "in the game" to "blown out of the building."
2. Boris playing BIG: Boris Bojanovsky was, dare I say, dominant in the first half. He established good position in the paint, went strong to the basket, pounded the defensive glass, altered shots, and made free throws. The Bratislavan Blocker has flashed moments throughout his career, but never has he played at a sustained level of impact like he has over the last 5-6 games. If this really is the "light switch" moment for Boris, FSU will likely be a very tough out come March. In 12 minutes of first half play, the big man totaled 11 points (on just TWO field goal attempts), six rebounds, a block, and was a huge factor in getting Ware into early foul trouble. Simply put, FSU goes into half down at least 8 if Bojo doesn't play big in the first half.
3. Second half ball movement: After a sloppy first half, the Seminoles moved the ball much better in the second. Crisp passes, inside-outside ball movement, and pushing the ball up the court in transition with passes instead of dribbling led to much better overall offensive play in the second half. All total, six different guys registered an assist in the second half. And after turning the ball over on 24% of their first half possessions, Florida State cut that number down to 10% in the second half. Now, 10% isn't sustainable for anyone in the country, but 15-17% would make an already dangerous offensive basketball team even more potent.
4. Guards Crashing the Boards: Beasley and XRM both had double-doubles (Beasley's first of his short career) and led the team with 10 rebounds each. Dwayne Bacon was tied for second with 6 rebounds. In fact, six "guards" (counting Montay Brandon and Terance Mann as guards) registered at least two rebounds. Florida State is a team that thrives in transition and one of the best times to score in transition is off a missed shot. But you can't get out in transition if you don't first secure the rebound. Rogner has pointed out several times how well this Seminole team is performing on the defensive glass compared to the rest of Hamilton's tenure, but last night the guards got into the act in a big way.
Thoughts from Howland after the game:
--"[FSU's] defensive pressure gave us problems all not long."
--"I thought we played really hard. With 30 minutes gone...we were right there in the game and then just ran out of gas."
--"Their size is really impressive...Ware's three fouls in the first half really hurt us."
--"We thought coming into the game that a couple teams have zoned them--Hofstra most notably--and given them some problems zoning them. So we felt like that might be a good thing to do, especially short-handed on the road. And it was working for us. They were stuck on 18 for what seemed like forever, and then they went on a run--a 19-5 run to end the half." (When asked about zone instead of his typical man-to-man).
--"There's not many freshman duos starting in the back-court together that are as impressive as [Bacon and Beasley]."
Thoughts from Hamilton after the game:
--"We had a difficult time getting back [in transition on defense] in the first half."
--"The second half I thought we did a much better job being more active defensively. Got maybe 12 or 14 deflections...more unity and togetherness on the defensive end."
--"It's obvious that we are learning from some of the lack of execution that we've had a chance to evaluate when we've gone back and watched some of our play."
--"To have two guys get double-doubles, not real sure we've had that in a while, but that just shows that guys are playing together and putting forth a little bit more effort."
--[Boris] is a little more animated in the huddles, demanding of his teammates, communicating, talking; that's kind of part of the growing up process we've gone through.That's not necessarily his personality, but he's emerging his personality into the team and everybody's becoming more invested."
--"[The guards] were in the right place fundamentally, they were putting their bodies on people, carving out space, and being extremely aggressive. Those are things you can get done by just executing the fundamentals of basketball." (when asked about the double-doubles from XRM and Beasley).