As you probably know by now, the Florida State basketball team remained unbeaten at home this season on Monday with a hard-fought 75-67 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. As always, here’s an in-depth analysis of what Florida State did well - and not so well - in its victory which snapped an eight-game losing streak in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The story of the game - at least for the opening 20 minutes - was the referees taking a game over with their foul-calling. At the half, Minnesota led the Seminoles 33-31 and 28 fouls had been called. This halting of offense, and not by coincidence tempo, proved troublesome.
With FSU completely unable to get rebounds on missed shots and get out in transition, the Seminoles struggled mightily in running a half-court offense. This was amplified by limited time on the court for starting point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who played just six minutes after a pair of quick fouls.
In the opening 20 minutes, Florida State converted on 9 of 26 field goals (34.6%), by far the team’s lowest percentage of the season to date. It was also one of the Seminoles’ sloppiest halves of the season. They may have forced 10 first-half turnovers, but their nine committed is no better, especially when considering the slower-than-normal pace.
That being said, for FSU to be down just two at the break after being forced well outside its desired style of play and while the team’s leading scorer on the year, Dwayne Bacon, had only four points on 1-4 shooting was quite impressive.
Second Half Strides
Much speculation went into what halftime adjustments the teams - as well as the refs -would make. Although the officiating did not let off the gas, following up 28 first-half fouls with 25 in the second session, Florida State’s changes at the break were exceptional.
All told, the vast majority of the second half was possibly the best all-around basketball the ‘Noles have played so far this season. They were creating chaos as well as they have all season, taking advantage of Minnesota’s slower pace to create traps and turnovers paired with impressive interior defense.
This turnaround was in large part fueled by Bacon. After scoring just four first-half points, the sophomore guard notched seven points in the opening five minutes of the second half as FSU jumped out to a lead which it held the rest of the way. By game’s end, Bacon had 18 points on 6-11 shooting, including two three pointers. As a team, Florida State converted 50% of its second-half free throws (14-28), a stat which would have been a good deal more impressive had the ‘Noles not ended the game hitting one of their final six shots as the Golden Gophers came charging back.
With just over five minutes left in the game, FSU held a commanding 70-51 lead, having outscored Minnesota 39-18 in the opening 15 minutes of the second period. However, the Seminoles let their foot off the gas for the second time in three games and although this time the late-game woes did not doom the Seminoles, it’s potentially the beginning of what could be a troublesome trend.
Florida State’s game, which had been clicking in all aspects throughout the second half, fell apart down the stretch. Clumsy turnovers, ill-advised shot selection, and continued struggles in a half-court offense allowed the Gophers to claw their way back into the game, cutting what was once a 19-point lead all the way down to seven in the closing seconds. There’s not necessarily cause for concern yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
FSU was outperformed and outhustled on the defensive glass and inside the paint in both games of its recent trip to Brooklyn. Monday night’s victory shows that all is not lost in the interior.
Michael Ojo scored the game’s first five points as a part of his 12-point performance, just the third double-digit scoring game of his career, to go along with five boards. Christ Koumadje added seven points, three boards, and a jaw-dropping block.
The star of the Florida State frontcourt, however, was Jonathan Isaac. The true freshman dropped 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Isaac continues to serve as an exceptional rebounder on both ends of the glass as three of his boards were of the offensive variety.
This team effort led to FSU more than doubling up Minnesota in the paint, 40-18, and outrebounding the Gophers 41-35. 14 offensive rebounds for Minnesota shows that there is still room for improvement but the return home was a welcome one for Florida State’s bigs.
Bacon’s two three pointers on four attempts were a showing of his continuing development as a jump shooter. For the rest of the team, though, the struggle from outside was very, very real.
No other Seminole hit so much as a single three pointer. Outside of Bacon, FSU was 0-12 from the perimeter. The sheer number of times this has been an issue already this season, paired with the preseason concerns about who would emerge as a consistent three-point threat, demonstrates that this could very well be a problem that isn’t going anywhere.
One possible antidote to the perimeter woes, junior college transfer P.J. Savoy, saw his first action of the season on Monday after missing the first six games of the season with turf toe. However, his brief appearance offered little remorse as a play at the end of the first half clearly drawn up to get him a look from three was well off the mark.
FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton on second half improvements:
Second half, I thought that we executed a lot better offensively, I thought we moved the ball, were sharper, made a couple of defensive adjustments just trying not to let them get it to the pace they wanted to dictate.
Hamilton on change of pace in second half:
We tried to dictate the pace with our defense. Trapping, rotating, not allowing them to just come down and dictate the tempo that was convenient for them. We had not worked on that type of defensive scheme very much, so to be able to make that type of adjustment as an in-game adjustment, I was very pleased. Our guys responded very well.
Rathan-Mayes on sheer number of fouls in first half
It was tough. They were calling a lot of ticky-tack fouls. The officiating game has changed a bit so we’ve got to live with it, play without our hands but with our feet, contain the ball. I thought we did a good job adjusting in the second half and getting back to doing what we do.
Ojo on learning from the late-game struggles
After the game, I talked to [the younger players] and said we can’t do this against ACC teams. When we get a lead, we have to be able to sustain that lead. We can’t allow people to come back. We have to keep doing what we do on defense that got us that lead, we have to keep doing that to keep extending the lead.
Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino (yes, he’s related) on FSU’s big men:
“They’re big, they’re really, really big and what they do is, because they deny you so much, they force you to go and try to make plays at the rim. Their length definitely bothered our bigs, but I think their length is going to bother a lot of bigs.”
Pitino on Isaac and Bacon
Damn good players and they made really-good-player plays. A couple of times, I just turned to our guys and said that’s a good play from a good player. I think they got really good talent, I think they got really good size, they’re well coached. It’s a recipe for some wins.
Waiting at the Scorer’s Table
After just one game at home, the Seminoles are back on the road this weekend for another neutral-site matchup, this time taking on the George Washington Colonials in Washington D.C.’s Verizon Arena on Sunday.