Entering their game against Wake Forest on Saturday, it seemed that there were two ways in which the Seminoles' game against the Demon Deacons could go. Either Florida State would control the game against a decently talented but not in FSU's echelon Wake Forest team and coast to victory or it would allow Wake to hang around and keep it close, something the Seminoles have been guilty of in years' past. Curiously, this game was, at times, destined for both situations. WF hung around early, even leading by four late in the first half and going on a run to tie the game at 48 in the early second half. In the end, though, the Deacs were no match for the Seminoles and FSU ran away with the 91-71 victory in Winston-Salem.
The game was closely contested through the entirety of the first half, with neither team leading by more than four at any point. Wake Forest benefitted from a spectacular half of perimeter shooting, jumping out to a 5-9 (55%) start from outside the arc that helped keep the Deacs ahead for a good portion of the first twenty minutes. Although some of this can be attributed to defensive confusion or a failure to close on out shots, many of the early makes from deep were simply conversions on contested shots. However, what goes up must come down and after the 5-9 start from three-point range, the Demon Deacons were a measly 2-11 (18%) the rest of the way, putting their final three-point percentage at 35%, an almost-complete regression to their mean on the season of 32%. On the other hand, Florida State finished 10-24 (42%) from outside the arc behind three three pointers each from Malik Beasley, Devon Bookert, and Benji Bell.
Despite the successful perimeter shooting, what may have been the most surprising takeaway from the win over Wake was the Seminoles' ball security. After an average first half that saw FSU force seven turnovers while committing five, Florida State played a near-perfect second half and were guilty of only one turnover in a full twenty minutes, a welcome sign for a team that has struggled with maintaining possession at times throughout the season. Unsurprisingly, the 'Noles clean play on the court led to them taking over the game down the stretch, scoring on 67.6% of their second-half possessions and an immaculate 1.459 points per possession in the final 20 minutes.
Another surprising trend was Florida State's domination in the paint on both sides of the court, scoring 44 points in the paint while limiting Wake to 30. This is made even more important when it is acknowledged that the Demon Deacons leading scorer, Devin Thomas, who averaged 16.3 points and 9.9 boards entering Saturday, is predominantly an inside player. Boris Bojanovsky, with some help from Jarquez Smith, Chris Koumadje, and a few other Seminoles, were able to limit Thomas, holding him to 11 points on 3-8 shooting. Although Phil Cofer's defensive ability and Michael Ojo's size are surely missed, the Seminoles proved that they are able to step up and competently defend a talented big man, even with just three healthy bigs.
One of the unsung heroes from the win over Wake is assuredly senior Montay Brandon. Brandon, who has been rightfully criticized all season long for a shocking regression in his level of play, followed up a solid performance against NC State on Monday with an even more productive outing today, finishing with 13 points, a new season-high, to go along with six rebounds. If Brandon can turn the corner and continue this increased level of play in the final stretch of his senior season, he could prove to be a difference maker and end his career at Florida State on a high note.
With Florida State now winners of four straight games and six of its last eight since opening conference play 0-3, the Seminoles have to feel good about their bubble standing right now. However, the work is far from done and it picks up again on Thursday with a significant road game against Syracuse, who also sits at 6-5 in ACC play, in what will likely be one of Florida State's toughest road environments so far this season.