The Florida State men's basketball team got off to the start it needed in the ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday afternoon, drilling the flailing Boston College Golden Eagles by a final score of 88-66.
Very early returns were positive for the 'Noles, who got a nice post-up bucket form Boris Bojanovsky and muddled the BC passing lanes effectively to hamper an already anemic Eagle offense and force turnovers. But then that dissipated, as FSU began settling for jumpers (some of which came from Jarquez Smith and Montay Brandon, which is not a recipe for success), while defensive gambles afforded Boston College open looks, which they hit.
In fact, BC was shooting 67% from the floor after both the U16 and U12 first-half media timeouts. The FSU defensive spark returned though, coming off the bench in the form of subs like Benji Bell, Terance Mann, and senior standout Devon Bookert, who is well aware of the fact that he's playing for his last shot at the NCAA Tournament. They played patient, position-sound defense, letting the shot clock work against the Eagles and effectively using the baseline and sideline as the perfect defenders they are.
Offensively, Bell helped return an interior presence for FSU via the dribble drive, while Bookert nailed his first three shots from beyond the arc to lead the 'Noles with 11 at the half, while Mann was 2-2 on the inside with a pair of offensive boards at the break. This trio's effort helped the Seminoles seize upon the absence of BC's leading scorer, Eli Carter, who had to depart with 5:46 left in the half due to foul trouble. At the half, Florida State led 39-30.
If FSU thought it had the Eagles primed for a blowout heading into halftime, then hapless Boston College only further facilitated the likelihood after the break. Carter picked up his fourth foul, and Dennis Clifford picked up his third and fourth shortly thereafter, while the 'Noles jumped out to a 45-30 lead. The Eagles went to full-court pressure to introduce an element of chaos into the game, and while they pressed back to a single-digit deficit several times, they just didn't have the talent -- or legs -- to keep pace.
Clifford fouled out with 9:28 remaining, effectively ending any BC hopes, though the Eagles continued to play hard while staring an ACC finish of 0-19 squarely in the face. The 'Nole lead fluctuated but was usually in the teens, as they shot very well from the floor: try 59% from the floor and 56% on threes. That may not seem important in a blowout, but when you're back to play on the same floor, shooting at the same rims, the very next day, having a positive shooter's feel for the environment can hardly be overstated. 52% from the line, however, will certainly need to improve if the Seminoles are going to make a run.
And FSU will need that run if it has any shot at dancing. The 'Noles will go for win No. 20 tomorrow night at 9 pm against Virginia Tech.