The image served as a perfect microcosm for Florida State basketball's 2016 season: FSU taking the ball out of the basket after an easy bucket for its opponent, but instead of getting into its own offensive set, senior Devon Bookert explaining help-side defense to a freshman during the course of the game. It's perfect. After all, there's no sense rushing to the offensive end when you can't get stop anyone defensively; and this young team has most certainly been trying to learn on the fly. And those defensive woes were, on Thursday night as they have been all year, the real reason the Seminoles lost by a healthy 81-69 margin at Valparaiso to cap the disappointing 2015-2016 season.
The Seminoles started typically similar to the way they have all season: slowly. They missed their first five shots and were scoreless at the first media timeout, ultimately spotting the Crusaders a 7-0 head start. The 'Noles struggled to get decent looks against Valpo's aggressive man defense, often going to isolation sets that didn't result in quality shots. Ball movement was atrocious, as FSU had just three first half assists. Defensively, Florida State was beat off the dribble repeatedly on the perimeter, when they weren't flying by Valparaiso players clever enough to employ a simple pump fake to take advantage of out-of-position defenders scrambling to close.
But Xavier Rathan-Mayes' 10 first-half points kept it a respectable 10-point deficit at half. And that's when the freshmen took over, combining for 25 in the second half. Some up-and-down ball helped the 'Noles trim the deficit to three at one point, but thanks to yet another ridiculously over-officiated game (49 fouls in 40 minutes is absurd), all air was taken out of the ball, and if Valpo going 44% on 17 three-point attempts (FSU hit 3-15) and 81% from the line wasn't enough, this one being decided in the half court most certainly was.
Unfortunately for the FSU seniors, it wasn't much of a swan song. Boris Bojanovsky was pushed around on the inside and finished with no points and just two boards. Montay Brandon didn't fair any better, not grabbing a single rebound while tallying a pair of points. And Devon Bookert, who's so often provided the spark this team needed this season, never looked comfortable in going just 1-9 from the floor.