Believe it or not, something went right for Florida State in its 84-65 loss at No. 17 Louisville on Wednesday night: nobody got hurt.
With that out of the way, let's move on to the rest of the Seminoles' performance against the Cardinals. UL ran FSU right out of the arena-- which stings just a bit more when that venue is called the KFC YUM! Center, a name more adequately suited for hosting a kid's birthday party than the blowout that transpired last night.
Starting point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes did not play due to a "coaches decision," and in many ways, this one was over before it started, as our Michael Rogner has already written. Losing your court general is never going to be a minor setback, but why was it an even more pronounced issue in Louisville?
Mostly because of the frenetic style fostered by Rick Pitino's Cardinals. They employ full-court pressure and utilize an aggressive 2-3 zone that introduces a chaotic element to the game. So beyond playing without their primary ball-handler, the young 'Noles were also absent they're steadying influence. Remember, although XRM is just a sophomore, it's his third year on campus, a drastic contrast to the FSU players whose time on campus is more appropriately measured in months. Those young guns are a huge part of this team -- as evidenced by the fact that they combined for 47 of Florida State's 65 points -- but there's no such thing as too much leadership.
Intangibles aside, Rathan-Mayes' absence forced Devon Bookert into the starting point guard role, while he's much more well suited to playing the two than distributing. To wit: he still hit 4-6 threes, but finished with just two assists, which, unfortunately for FSU, nevertheless tied for a team-high.
The 'Noles just never found anything approaching a rhythm. The box score looks better thanks to Florida State closing things on a 10-0 garbage-time run, but the Seminoles were dominated on the glass when it mattered, routinely giving up second and third chances to an athletic Louisville squad. As a result, UL also had more points in the paint (42-34), as well as off the bench (19-12), while shooting better than 50% on two-point attempts (27-51), big reasons that the Cards never trailed. The FSU bigs mustered only five points in 39 combined minutes, while pulling down just seven rebounds and committing nine fouls.
When the clock was running, the Louisville lead was usually growing. But FSU's fortunes' didn't improve when it was stopped, given the Seminoles' woeful results from the free-throw line. The 'Noles finished 9-21 from the charity stripe. At 43%, that's worse than Louisville shot from the floor (48%).
As ugly as Wednesday night was, this week can still end on a positive note if FSU can top Pitt in Tallahassee on Saturday afternoon. That would mean three wins in the Seminoles' last four games, and to be fair, Louisville was about a 10-point favorite in this one anyway, even before the loss of Rathan-Mayes was known. Of course, the question now concerns X's future with Florida State. 'Nole head coach Leonard Hamilton says he's undecided on XRM's status for that game; the rest of this FSU basketball season may just hinge on that decision.