Tomahawk Nation's own, Michael Rogner. could not have said it much better when he described Florida State's 74-72 loss to Pittsburgh as a tale of two halves.
The Seminoles were up for the challenge that No. 20 Pitt presented, outperforming the Panthers in nearly every measurable aspect for the first 20 minutes.
FSU, 101st in the nation in rebounding margin averaging 3.3 more rebounds than their opponents entering Saturday, had the unenviable task of going up against a Pitt team that entered Tallahassee ranked 16th in the country in rebounding margin and averaging 40.2 rebounds per game while allowing only 31.1 per game (+9.1 margin). And, for long stretches of the game, the Seminoles held their own on the glass. At halftime, Pitt had only 15 rebounds, due in large part to a Florida State offense that managed to shoot 57.1% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. FSU had such success crashing the glass due to extremely high effort given by Boris Bojanovsky, who wrangled eight rebounds, and Devon Bookert, who had 5+ rebounds for the second consecutive game after having no 5+ rebound games in the Seminoles' first 17 games.
Meanwhile, FSU benefitted from a lackluster offensive performance from the Panthers in the early going as Pitt finished the first half 11-33 (33.3%) from the floor despite having exploiting Florida State's occasional zone looks for easy, uncontested shots. In turn, Pitt's inability to make even simple shots consistently allowed the Seminoles to run the up-tempo, transition-based offense that they so enjoy. Florida State had 8 points in transition in the first half and had the opportunity to score significantly more on the break if not for some ill-fated decisions by Montay Brandon, Dwayne Bacon and others.
For Florida State, it was a red-hot first half shooting, bouncing back from their 0-5 start from the floor to hit 16 of their last 23 shots (69.6%) before the break.
All of these factors, and even more that I left out for brevity's sake, resulted in FSU holding a 43-33 halftime lead and in a good position to respond from Wednesday's loss at Louisville in a positive way.
But, unfortunately for FSU, everything that went right in the first half went horribly wrong in the second. Florida State committed fouls early and often in the second half, allowing Pitt to enter the bonus by the halfway point of the second and committing, in all, 15 fouls in the final 20 minutes. This resulted in 16 second-half free throws for Pitt (FSU had 12 all game) and played a large part in the Panthers' comeback. Most impacted by the foul issues was Malik Beasley, who had 16 points on 7-7 shooting, committed his fifth personal foul in a completely unnecessary moment with 2:24 left in the game, causing him to miss the final moments of the close finish.
On the glass, Florida State's shallow frontcourt was exploited by a talented Pitt frontcourt and, by game's end, was simply too worn down to keep the Panthers off the boards in the final moments. This proved to be the difference as a single Panther possession that saw them collect two offensive rebounds resulted in a converted three pointer that gave them the lead for the first time in over 30 minutes of game, and, more importantly, for good.
There were plenty of additional aspects of the Seminoles' loss that left plenty to be desired. Bacon's career-high eight turnovers, especially compared to the eight committed by the rest of the team combined, are inexcusable. The Seminoles inability to close out a game that they were in full control of is a step back from just last week, when they successfully protected leads against NC State and UVA.
All of these issues led Florida State to squandering a 10-point lead and falling to 2-5 in ACC play and although the Pittsburgh game was far from a must-win, a win over a team that will likely end with a top 50 RPI could play a large role in which side of the bubble they end up on. Thankfully for them, the gauntlet that is the ACC schedule will provide FSU with plenty more opportunities to pad its resume.