The Florida State basketball team left little doubt about who the better team was on Tuesday when they steamrolled the visiting Southern Miss Golden Eagles, 98-49. That being said, an observations piece on this dominant victory must be preceded by a recognition of the caliber of opponent that FSU just faced. After a 49-point victory over USM, the Seminoles’ RPI fell 10 spots from #26 to #36 solely based on how much the Eagles hurt FSU’s strength of schedule. Therefore, everything that follows should be taken with a reasonably-sized grain of salt. With that out of the way, here’s a look at some of the overwhelmingly positive observations from Florida State’s blowout victory.
Florida State got off to a quick start and the spark came from both an unlikely spot and player. The Seminoles’ first four converted field goals were three pointers, two of which were by senior forward Jarquez Smith. For some perspective, Smith was 0-1 from outside the arc in FSU’s first eight games this season before sinking a pair of threes in the opening 3:23 of Tuesday’s game.
Even more surprisingly, walk-on Brandon Allen was 2-3 from outside the arc as part of his incredibly efficient outing which saw him put up a career-high 10 points in 10 minutes of play.
The real star of the show, however, was JUCO transfer PJ Savoy. In his first extended action at the Tucker Center this season, Savoy hit 7-10 shots from outside the arc as part of a 27-point performance which came over 14 minutes of play, the most since Xavier Rathan-Mayes converted seven threes last season against North Carolina. The sample size was quite small but if Savoy is able to emerge as a consistent weapon from the perimeter, it could go a long way towards opening up the floor as well as the offense.
In all, FSU finished with a season-high 14 three pointers on 29 attempts (48.3%), doing so on a night where the Seminoles were without true freshman Jonathan Isaac, the team’s highest percentage three-point shooter, while the team’s second most-efficient perimeter shooter, Dwayne Bacon, was an unremarkable 1-5 from outside the arc.
With Isaac (hip) as well as junior forward Phil Cofer (foot) out of the lineup on Tuesday, FSU called on some of its less-utilized players to fill the void. The answer was a strong and resounding one.
Smith filled in as the starting power forward, making his first start since December of 2014. He added 14 points, his most points in a single game in two years, to go along with a pair of blocks, putting him over 100 in his career.
As has become almost the status quo this season, all 11 Seminoles who entered the game registered at least two points.
Trent Forrest also impressed, continuing to emerge as a complete stat stuffer. He may have only had four points on 1-5 shooting, but he supplemented that nicely with a game-high nine rebounds, two steals, and an assist along with no turnovers in 21 minutes of play.
Even without two of its major rebounding threats in Isaac and Cofer, FSU outrebounded USM 36-31, with all members of the team showing aggression in their pursuit of nearly every miss at both ends of the floor.
Depth has consistently been what head coach Leonard Hamilton has praised as the biggest strength of this team and that was on full display in Tuesday’s blowout win.
FSU did not lose a step defensively against the Golden Eagles, even without two key contributors. The ‘Noles finished the runaway victory with 14 steals and eight blocks against a vastly outmatched USM team. There were a few mishaps which resulted in easy baskets allowed, but on the whole, it was as dominant a performance as you would expect considering the opponent.
Southern Miss was held to 30.2% from the floor. Part of that can be attributed to an abysmal 5-28 (17.9%) performance from outside the arc, but the Golden Eagles struggled inside as well, converting on only 14 of 35 two-point attempts (40%).
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this defensive performance was that in spite of the occasional mistakes which caused head coach Leonard Hamilton to stress a need to improve on defensive execution, the Seminoles’ effort and intensity carried all the way to the final whistle even though the game was in hand well before the closing minutes. In a bit of a circular logic pattern, this consistent intensity was aided by Florida State’s significant depth.
One of the few negative takeaways from Tuesday’s game was that Florida State was a bit too careless with the ball, compiling 14 turnovers as a team. Now, increased turnovers are admittedly a side effect of playing at the rapid tempo that FSU wants to play at, but they could prove to be a problem down the line in conference play.
Rathan-Mayes’ game-high seven assists were hampered by his season-high four turnovers, Smith had three turnovers, and Braian Angola-Rodas added two. In all, 8 of the 11 ‘Noles to enter the game committed at least one turnover.
Waiting at the Scorer’s Table
The Seminoles get little time to rest as their stretch of four games over an eight-day period resumes on Thursday when FSU welcomes in Nicholls State for the only 9 PM tip on the ‘Noles regular-season schedule.
Southern Miss Basketball Head Coach Doc Sadler:
“Wow. You know going into the game, I told Leonard I think I had one team when I was at Nebraksa, that when Kansas came in and played the way I thought they could play, and I thought before the game, (Florida State) could be a team that really really could give us a problem.”
“Three years I’ve been at Southern Miss, and I told Leonard before the game, they are the best team we’ve played...We just weren’t ready.”
Florida State Basketball Head Coach Leonard Hamilton:
"Thank goodness we have five or six games before conference play. We’re not there just yet...We're not ready for conference play by any stretch of imagination. We got a lot of areas that need improvement."
Florida State guard Dwayne Bacon:
“It was tremendous ball movement, that’s what we’ve been pushing all year, just to move the ball and find the open man. I think thats what we did tonight.”