Florida State returned to their home court Monday afternoon for their final non-conference home game, welcoming in the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, who entered with a 4-7 record including a 24-point loss to Akron, a 10-point loss to Rider and a 6-point loss to Wright State. Although only letting the Buccaneers lead for 22 seconds over the course of the game, some sloppy play and missed opportunities from the Seminoles allowed CSU to keep the game relatively close until late when FSU pulled away for a 75-64 win. Here are some observations from Florida State's win which moved them to 9-2 on the season.
Turnover bug rears ugly head once again
The Seminoles, who have struggled with ball security at times, entered the game against CSU off of a 12-turnover performance in the 64-59 win over FAU on Saturday that saw them turn the ball over on a very reasonable 17.9% of its possessions. From the very start of Monday's game, Florida State was unable to get out of its own way, turning the ball over seven times in the first seven minutes. The issues with turning the ball over arose from FSU struggling to spread the ball around and score points in a half-court offense. When they were unable to get out in transition, points were hard to come by for the Seminoles. By halftime, FSU has 13 turnovers and had turned it over on 32.5% of its possessions. Interestingly, the turnovers were not coming from the freshmen that have been an occasional ball-security liability. Florida State's five first-year players who played in the opening half accounted for only 2 of the Seminoles' 13 first-half turnovers (15.4%).
The second half proved to be quite a different story, however, as Florida State committed zero turnovers over the opening 11 minutes and 17 seconds of the second half and finished with five second-half turnovers, lowering the turnover rate to a much more respectable 23.7%.
Bacon's knack for taking a game over may come in handy once conference play begins
Dwayne Bacon, who entered the game off of back-to-back 20+ point performances in wins over Mississippi State and FAU, picked up right where he left off on Monday, compiling six quick points over the opening 4:51 of the game before cooling off substantially and being held scoreless for the remaining 15+ minutes of the first half. However, Bacon really got cooking in the second half, where he was responsible for 10 of FSU's 12 points over a five-minute stretch in the second half that helped the Seminoles open up a 66-54 lead with 4:34 left, single-handedly putting the game out of reach. Although Malik Beasley may have emerged as the more consistent scoring option early in his Florida State career, Bacon's ability to go off and become nearly unstoppable for stretches could be the difference between a win and loss in multiple conference games this season.
Struggles from outside continue
Florida State was unable to snap out their recent cold spell from three-point range in the win over the Buccaneers. The Seminoles missed early (they started 0-6 from 3 and were 1-8 at halftime) and often (they finished 3-16 (18.8%)) from the perimeter. Only two Seminole players, Rathan-Mayes and Beasley, connected on three-pointers and Bacon, Benji Bell, and Devon Bookert, who have all shown a knack for hitting 3s, were a combined 0-6 from outside. With the meager perimeter shooting performance against CSU, Florida State has not connected on 30% of its three-point attempts since they hit 38.5% from beyond the arc against VCU on December 6th. In fact, FSU is an underwhelming 14-69 (20.3%) from 3 in their last four games since the win over VCU, something that will surely need to see improvement over the next two weeks before their home conference opener against UNC on January 4th.
XRM's tale of two halves
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has established himself as the far-and-away best assist man on this year's team, averaging 6.2 assists per game entering the CSU game, was unable to use his first-half minutes productively. In the 14 minutes that he played in the first half, Rathan-Mayes was responsible for four turnovers while creating just three points and one assist. After the underwhelming first half, XRM came out of halftime with a fire lit under him and flipped his stat line, accounting for four assists and only one turnover in the final 20 minutes, showing his true potential as a point guard that we have seen glimpses of on a few occasions so far this season.