This one was over before it started, and the Nicholls State Colonels (4-5) are not a good basketball team at all, but let’s see what we can take away from Florida State’s highest-scoring output of the season in its 118-63 victory.
Above the Rim
Yes, the 9-1 Seminoles boast infinitely more talent than NSU, but it’s worth acknowledging that FSU did what it was supposed to in erasing any and all hope early and often, which doesn’t always happen in college basketball (just ask Indiana following that loss to Fort Wayne).
FSU began the game on a 22-2 run while forcing 11 turnovers and not allowing a field goal until the contest was nearly 10 minutes old. And once again, it was without Jonathan Isaac and Phil Cofer, who remained out with injuries. Seminole Head Coach Leonard Hamilton is “fairly confident” that the former will play on Sunday against Florida, while he’s doubtful about the latter. Still, it took the ‘Noles less than 8 minutes to go 11 deep, and they were again frenetic in getting deflections to keep the Colonels off balance. A game after no FSU player went over 24 minutes of playing time, no Seminole eclipsed 23 minutes on Thursday.
Florida State got a little undisciplined, defensively, as the game wore on and the result became even more assured, often lunging and gambling unwisely. Still, the Seminoles didn’t allow any significant runs, and in a game in which the ‘Noles were favored by 29, they won by 55. NSU finished with just one more FG (21) than turnovers (20).
How? Well it started with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who continues to round his game out quite impressively. XRM had 16 points on 6-9 shooting and 3-4 threes, with a game-high three steals, seven boards, and seven assists. But even more impressive is X’s defense, which really sets the tone for FSU when he picks up his man in five-full coverage.
Regardless of opponent, you don’t put up 118 points without putting the ball in the basket, and the ‘Noles certainly did that, both in live and dead-ball situations. For the second straight game, Florida State topped 90% from the free-throw line, making 11-12. Proficiency from the charity stripe becoming more of a habit than an anomaly will serve the Seminoles well against better teams and in close games.
But still, volume is an issue. 12 attempts is far too low, especially against a team like Nicholls State. Of course, that was offset by FSU once again crushing it from behind the arc. The ‘Noles made 17-32 from long range (53%), and have now sunk as many treys (39) in their last three games as they did in their first seven. Leading the way, once again, was PJ Savoy, who hit on 6-14 attempts from downtown.
Savoy shows absolutely zero hesitation from afar, which prompted me to tweet, early in the game, that he must have the green light from Hamilton to fire at will. That was corroborated, after the game, and it’s exactly what you want from your long-distance ace. Like a defensive back in football with a short memory, Savoy needs to continue to display an assassin’s mentality; he already plays killer defense, which means his value isn’t just on one side of the court.
Overall, the ‘Noles finished at 63% from the floor, but getting he other team into foul trouble will go a long way, particularly if FSU can keep hitting from the line like it has of late. But moreover, this deep squad can leverage opponents into undesirable lineups if it can draw some more fouls. Against NSU, Florida State had a pair of players with four fouls, and another couple with three. The Colonels finished with just a lone player whistled three times.
One reason the Seminoles don’t find themselves at the line more is because they pass the ball extremely well, often getting open looks. This team is very unselfish, and wound up with 32 assists on 45 FGs against Nicholls State. That mentality is a positive, but at times, they pass up very solid looks to continue to move the ball around the perimeter— that is, except, for Savoy.
On the other end, there remains an issue on the defensive glass. NSU had more offensive rebounds than the ‘Noles by a 14-10 margin; it’s going to be tough for the Seminoles to run like they want if the opposition is continuing to retain possession offensively.
Finally, questions remain about the rotation, at least presently, sans Isaac and Cofer. While Isaac will certainly resume his role at FSU’s lone forward spot upon his return, Jarquez Smith again got the nod there in his stead, at least to begin the game. Smith did not play in the second half, and Braian Angola-Rodas started the second stanza.
Waiting at the Scorer’s Table
Next up are the No. 21 Florida Gators, whom the ‘Noles will host Sunday at 4 pm. FSU should see a decent crowd at this one, as students are still in town, and a win could very well propel the Seminoles back into the top 25, while knocking UF out.