So...who still wants to #FireHam?
Florida State basketball entered their game in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a double-digit underdog to Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers. There was a good reason: UVA had won 35 of their last 36 at John Paul Jones Arena, while FSU was 0-9 in last 9 road games vs. ranked teams. Ken Pomeroy had the Cavs ranked No. 1 in the land. However, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminole squad found a way to pull off the 60-58 win behind an enormous 2nd half from Dwayne Bacon and great team defense, moving to 14-1 in the process for the first time since 1988-89 season under Pat Kennedy. Former Virginia Tech head coach and current ESPN studio analyst, Seth Greenberg, went as far as to call it up the upset of the day (he’s wrong, by the way, as Georgia Tech over UNC is a much bigger upset):
He wasn’t the only national media member taking notice, either:
Florida State hanging with Virginia down the stretch in Charlottesville. I'm telling you, I like these Seminoles.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) December 31, 2016
Was five/six minutes behind on DVR … holy crap, Dwayne Bacon. Florida State with a MAMMOTH WIN at Virginia. Big-time result. Great CBB Sat.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) December 31, 2016
Dwayne Bacon wills Florida State to an enormous win at Virginia. Biggest win that the Seminoles have had in years. What a gutty performance.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 31, 2016
Jeff Goodman had sideline reporting duties for ESPNU in this one. Safe to say he enjoyed himself:
That was sensational. Kyle Guy drills a 3 to put Virginia up; Dwayne Bacon answers with a 3 to give FSU a 60-58 lead with 2 seconds left.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 31, 2016
Looking for a replay of the final sequence? Rob Dauster, who writes for NBC Sports, has you covered:
What a wild finish in Charlottesville!!! Kyle Guy, baseline drive, baseline drift. But Dwayne Bacon is sizzling. 26 this half. pic.twitter.com/Om3E5gmXXz— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) December 31, 2016
Now, let’s take a look at how exactly Florida State was able to beat Virginia in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon.
- Unlike the ACC opener against Wake Forest, the Seminoles actually started well against the Cavaliers, jumping out to a 10-2 lead. However, they struggled the rest of the 1st half. Similar to the opener against the Demon Deacons, the ‘Noles closed with a flurry, outscoring UVA 13-7 over the final 5:17.
- How cold was the offense in the 1st half? FSU shot only 7-21 from the floor and scored a measly 0.72 PPP. However, in the 2nd half, before Bacon’s amazing play, the ‘Noles upped that to an incredible 1.23 PPP against the nation’s No. 2 defense.
Two teams ( (West Virginia and Florida State) have scored a point per possession vs Virginia this year— Michael Rogner (@TN_Hoops) January 1, 2017
- The defense was very good throughout, holding UVA, the No. 9 offense in the country entering the game, to 0.92 PPP. How did Florida State do this, especially with the Cavs hitting 9-16 from 3-pt. range? They rebounded incredibly well, grabbing 82% of available boards against a very good Virginia rebounding squad. The ‘Noles also did an excellent job keeping the Wahoos off the free throw stripe. For the game, Virginia only attempted 5 free throws! And FSU forced turnovers. Again, this is an area where Tony Bennett’s team usually excels, but on Saturday, they turned it over on 21% of possessions, and when you play at the slowest pace in the entire country, you must limit turnovers and value each possession.
Okay, wife is waiting so gotta go. But watching film now and 1st time all season I've been excited about FSU's defense.— Michael Rogner (@TN_Hoops) January 1, 2017
So many times FSU funneled a UVA ballhandler straight into a problem— Michael Rogner (@TN_Hoops) January 1, 2017
- We just mentioned FSU’s defensive rebounding, but they did a nice job on the offensive glass, as well, grabbing 30% of their misses. The ‘Noles also attempted 24 free throws in the contest, 19 more than UVA. Now, they only made 12 (50%), which is totally unacceptable, but when you make 9 more free throws than your opponent in a 2-point win, it certainly helps.
- We clearly have to start with Bacon, the sophomore sensation, who ended the game with a career-high 29 points. As fireworks were just ringing in the New Year outside my house, I watched the game replay and 2nd half fireworks from Bacon. For as cold as he was to start the game (3 PTS on 1-5 shooting in the 1st half), he was that hot to close it out (26 PTS on an incredibly efficient 10-13 in the 2nd half). He wasn’t that good, though, as he incredulously allowed UVA to outscore him after intermission:
My bad, I thought Dwayne Bacon was cookin, but Virginia outscored him 28-26 in the 2nd half— Michael Rogner (@TN_Hoops) December 31, 2016
- Xavier Rathan-Mayes didn’t have a flashy game, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a good game. The junior from Ontario was the offense in the 1st half with all 10 of his points, and he contributed four rebounds and 3 assists, while not turning the ball over in 27 minutes. He also made 5-6 free throws and has now made 12-16 (75%) in two ACC games, after an uncharacteristically slow start at the stripe.
- Terance Mann and Trent Forrest might not have packed the stat sheet like some games, but they’re both so solid, especially on the defensive end, and it’s why they played 24 and 22 minutes respectively (4th and 5th most) in a key conference road game. They make you work for everything, and I love how they play the game.
- Michael Ojo finished with 0 points on 0-4 shooting, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The senior center from Lagos, Nigeria, had 6 rebounds in 17 minutes, and even though he didn’t have any blocked shots, he disrupted countless attempts and generally intimidated down lown. FSU was +13 in his time on the floor (trailed only Bacon in that category).
- Speaking of big men: Phil Cofer and Jarquez Smith provided some production off bench. They combined for 8 points and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes and added a physical presence down low.
- Unfortunately, once again, Jon Isaac struggled on the offensive end, scoring just 5 points on 1-6 shooting (can you imagine how good FSU will be when he gets cooking again on offense?!?), but he blocked two more shots, and his rebounding is incredible (he grabbed a game-high 9 rebounds in 28 minutes), especially on the defensive end:
Jonathan Isaac has grabbed over 22% of the defensive boards while he's on the floor. Would be 2nd highest at FSU since before he was born— Michael Rogner (@TN_Hoops) January 1, 2017
Remember a couple years ago when the ACC banned Karl Hess from officiating their games? After this season, I’d suggest they do the same with Les Jones and Jamie Luckie, as I’ve seen enough of them to last me a lifetime. Just saying.
As we leave 2016 and head into 2017, let’s see if the ‘Noles can continue their torrid start! They have a week off, before hosting Virginia Tech (who should be ranked after knocking off Duke Saturday) next Saturday in Tallahassee. FSU should be slight favorites. Let’s see if we can’t pack The Tuck for another crucial conference game.