Florida State remained perfect on the young season Sunday night, defending its home court and dismissing the University of Detroit-Mercy Titans by a score of 100-71. As always, we take a look back at both the big picture and the minutiae, which can also help you to keep up in case you missed it, which, judging by the attendance of 4,962, you did.
Above the Rim
The ‘Noles were playing on a tight turnaround, having just ran with Winthrop on Friday night, and they may have had some heavy legs to begin this one, which tipped at 5 pm. When you’re tired, the easy ones suddenly don’t seem like such a given, and that’s exactly what happened in this one, as Florida State missed more bunnies than Elmer Fudd. Although it certainly wasn’t for a lack of looks against a porous UDM interior defense. How bad was it? FSU missed three dunks, the most entertaining of which featured Terance Mann rattling one out, but then hanging on the rim with one hand while corralling the ball and putting it back in with the other (he received a technical foul for that creativity).
Even with those misses, the ‘Noles still converted inside enough to outscore the Titans 78-26 in the paint, while shooting 57% from the floor over the course of the game. FSU gave great effort on the defensive end and was very effective at getting into the passing lanes and deflecting passes, ending up with 11 steals and 30 points off turnovers.
The primary issue facing this team is the absolutely anemic three-point shooting. Florida State missed its first 10 from beyond the arc, not sinking a triple until there were about 8.5 minutes remaining and finishing just 1-14 on threes. For the second straight game, the ‘Noles faced a team that stayed in man defense the whole time, but eventually, squads are going to drop down into a zone and force the Seminoles to shoot from outside, especially if they keep shooting 27.8% from downtown.
PJ Savoy should be a great help there, but he remains out with turf toe. Phil Cofer also sat out with an ankle sprain, but did not appear to be wearing any significant brace. Head Coach Leonard Hamilton was asked about them after the game, and you can read his comments below.
I thought it was extremely encouraging to see the way that the team reacted to the lid on the basket early on. There wasn’t a hint of apathy, and their general response to some of those early frustrations was simply to play harder on the defensive end, turning up the intensity in their full-court man-to-man defense.
Leading the way was backup guard Trent Forrest, who posted a game-high four steals and five assists while shooting 6-7 and producing 12 points, all in a very efficient 20 minutes. Forrest is a little like a newer version of Terance Mann, in that he often seems to find ways to put himself in positions to succeed.
One place where Forrest struggled, however, was at the free throw line, where he missed both of his attempts, which is part of a disturbing trend among FSU’s point guards this season. After a 1-4 night at the stripe, Xavier-Rathan Mayes is now 8-15, CJ Walker is a bright spot at 14-18, while Forrest is 6-14 on the season. Averaging those three comes out to 59.6%, and that’s terribly low for a position group charged with having the ball in its hands at the end of games. Three-point shooting has to improve, of course, but so do the ‘Nole points at the line.
That trio did do very well taking care of the ball, as XRM had two turnovers, and the others didn’t record any. For the second straight game, FSU as a team was very good with the ball, registering just eight turnovers after giving up seven against Winthrop.
The passing has been particularly clean, and although they don’t show up in the stat sheet, the FSU bigs have improved with their outlet passes, often making a pass that leads to the pass that leads to an easy bucket-- Florida State had 20 fast-break points against UDM.
Once again, FSU produced a substantial run during which the ‘Noles put the game away. The Titans were hanging around in the second half until Florida State went on a 32-4 streak that made this one a laugher and allowed Brandon Allen to play for the final five minutes— it was Allen’s first playing time of the season, as the Seminoles once again went 11 deep.
Detroit looked like it was playing against seven defenders during that run, as FSU was simply everywhere. Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac led the attack all evening. Isaac posted his first career double-double, with 14 points and a game and career high of 10 boards, along with two assists, a block (Florida State had six), and a steal. Bacon came out with some fire, dunking home a number of balls in posting a game-high 22 points with a rebound, an assist, and a couple of steals. The numerous pro scouts on press row certainly got an eyeful of this pair on Sunday.
Hamilton on the three-point shooting problem:
"We did not shoot well from the perimeter tonight but Jonathan is shooting 50-something percent from 3 and Bacon's 47. Tonight was one of those games where we were able to get the ball to the basket. That was working. I think we had 78 points in the paint so when you have that opportunity, you have to take advantage of it."
For the record, Isaac is now 7-15 on threes, which is 46.7%. Bacon is 8-20 (40%).
Hamilton on Cofer and Savoy:
Well, [Cofer] is a little sore. He could have played if it was important, but right now, I just want everybody to be healthy. PJ probably could have played, but he probably would have been like 90%. He's such a great shooter that I'm just being cautious so that I don't end up bringing him back too early because we really need his outside shooting ability. He's anxious and he wants to get back out there but we're kind of holding him back a little bit. He warmed up tonight and we'll see how he is tomorrow. Plus, he hasn't done anything in a week or so we have to get his conditioning back up. We need him back. Phil and PJ are kind of on the mend right now. We've been down that road where we're playing when they are almost healthy, we're trying to avoid that. Hopefully, we can win while we get a completely healthy team.
“We’re a pretty good offensive team. We like to get out and run. That’s what we’ve been preaching along with defense. Getting out in transiton and playing open-court basketball. These games we have shown we can play at a really high pace. We’re doing what we want to and getting wins while doing it.”
On the freshmen: “They’ve done well, asked questions and been willing to learn. They are all doing a great job. They’re not perfect but doing a great job of getting better.”
On Isaac: “He’s big time for us. He scores, he rebounds. He’s a great defender for us. He does so much for us.”
On the next two games:
“We’re focused on Temple and then getting that win and focus on the next day. It’s tough playing back to back but we’re going to prepare. We have a maturity to get better for big situations. We’re a lot more mature. Me and Dwayne’s maturity level has gone up. Our chemistry level has transformed and trickled down.”
On the 32-4 run:
“We got a little sloppy defensively. We let them get a couple wide open threes. Coach called a timeout and challenged us to be great defensively. We were able to get steals and get out in transition.
Bacon on Isaac:
Jonathan is actually 6'11. A guard at 6'11 that plays very much like Kevin Durant. If you're looking at Kevin Durant right now, he's averaging almost a double-double every game right now and Jonathan can do that too for us. He's a guy that can easily get 10 boards just because of how long he is and he's a guy that can easily score just because of his ability, the things he can do. He's crazy talented and I feel like he can average a double-double this season.
On what sparked the run:
"Coach Ham made a sub and put me and Jon back in and we just came back in with the rest of the starters and we just turned it up. We got out early, got a lot of stops, kicked ahead and we were just running."
Waiting at the Scorer’s Table
The ‘Noles will now travel to Brooklyn, where they’ll complete the NIT Season Tip-Off. First up will be the Temple Owls, at 12:30 pm on Thanksgiving.