clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Baseline Breakdown: FSU takes down Louisville

FSU gets a wire to wire win against an old Metro rival.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

FSU survived a valiant effort from a Final Four caliber Louisville Cardinal team and completes their historic six game stretch against ranked foes with a 5-1 record. The win keeps the Seminoles tied atop of the ACC standings with UNC and Notre Dame, with all three teams sporting a 6-1 league record.

Above the Rim:

  • Despite terrible weather in Tallahassee, the Tuck was full 10 minutes prior tip. The energy was palpable. And then FSU got off to perhaps the best start I’ve seen the Seminoles open a game with in 5+ years. By the time Louisville got their first points on the board (a sweet step-back jumper by future NBA-er Deng Adel) FSU had already put up 14 and the crowd was as thunderous as the lightning outside. Our own Andrew Miller wrote a timely piece on the team feeding off the energy of the crowd and the start to this game certainly felt like there was a symbiotic relationship between the fans and the players.
  • After such a hot start, a regression to the mean had to be expected. And it definitely came with the entire starting unit on the bench during the second four minutes of the game. In fact, the ‘Noles went over 5 minutes game time without a field goal (they did maintain a 7-9 point lead during this stretch thanks to a few FTs). Now, depth is the reason FSU has been as successful as they have been this season. But I wonder if such a whole-sale change that early in the game prevented FSU from pushing the lead to 20+ and knocking Louisville out before they had a chance to get off the ropes?
  • FSU fell in love with jumpers in the first half and it played right into Louisville’s hand. The Seminoles are at their best when they’re turning defense into offense. When they are getting stops and rebounds, pushing the ball up court, and scoring either in transition or on a secondary break after penetrating and kicking out to open shooters in rhythm. Coming into the game, three point attempts only made up 31% of all FSU shots—ranking 288th out of 351 in the country.

But after Dwayne Bacon buried two early threes, and XRM drained a long step-back two of his own, FSU seemed to get away from what they do best. Some credit should go to a stifling Louisville defense that changed looks as often as Dennis Rodman used to change hair color, but often it seemed FSU was just content to shoot step-backs off the dribble or settle for contested threes. In fact, 12 out of the Seminoles’ first 28 shot attempts were threes (43%) and they only made three of those attempts. Bacon was the main culprit, shooting 2-6 from behind the line in the first 13 minutes of the game. This resulted in two things: 1) the Cardinals were able to grab long rebounds and get out and run, leading to easy buckets; and 2) because the Cardinals could get easy buckets, they were able to set up their defense and prevent FSU from generating their own easy buckets.

Fortunately for FSU (unfortunately for basketball fans across the country), TV Teddy decided to take over the last three minutes of the first half and call a foul on nearly every possession, forcing FSU to quit attempting jumpers and head to the locker room up six.

  • The length and size between these two teams was astounding. Sitting court-side it looked like an NBA game. Obviously it lacked the supreme shot-making and dizzying array of skills displayed in NBA match-ups, but the length and athleticism was breathtaking.
  • Louisville’s defense is outstanding. I noted it above, but the Cardinals would often show two or three different looks on the same possession. This caused a lot of confusion for the Seminole offense and while it wasn’t a great shooting night for the garnet and gold, major credit should be given to FSU for their ball security. The ‘Noles only committed a turnover on 9.5% of their possessions, a number that would lead the nation by a country mile if they achieved it over the full season.
  • In a big role reversal from most of this season, Louisville’s bench outscored FSU’s bench 40-11. If you told me that prior to the game, I would have said FSU lost by 6+. And yet the Seminoles emerged victoriously. What’s great about this team is that they truly win by committee. Against Louisville, Michael Ojo came up big with 10 points and four of the five starters finished in double-figures. As an aside, I think this also highlights the significance of staying healthy. Even injuries to role players like Braian Angola-Rodas can have a significant impact to FSU’s ability to have someone different step up every game.

Court Level:

  • For the first time in a while, CJ Walker and Trent Forrest looked like freshmen. Which is to be expected since they are, in fact, freshmen. It was obvious that Louisville’s switching defense had the young guards a bit rattled and the two combined for 4 points, 1 rebound, and 3 turnovers in just 21 minutes of play. However, as the game wore on you could get a sense that both guys started to have things slow down for them, and CJ Walker proved to be a big help down the stretch as Leonard Hamilton went to a two-PG lineup. Experiences like this will pay big dividends down the road when games are on the line in March.
  • Any time you get this much length and athleticism on the court in college basketball, it’s likely to be a bit helter-skelter. Which is the type of game that a guy like Terance Mann can thrive in and boy did he deliver (except at the FT line—more on that below). The sophomore wing was dialed in from the tip and finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds (2 offensive), and 2 blocks in 29 minutes of play. Moreover, his quickness and intensity on defense was crucial in slowing down Louisville’s offense over the final 10 minutes.
  • Jonathan Isaac’s defensive rebounding is a monstrous difference-maker for this team. I know we have said that a lot this year, but it simply cannot be overstated. The freshman sensation is grabbing nearly 25% of available defensive boards on the season, almost 10 percentage points better than the next best man on the team (Michael Ojo). To put that in perspective, Florida State hasn’t had a player secure even 20% of available defensive rebounds since Uche Echefu brought down 20.7% during the 2008 season. Isaac’s ability to knock down perimeter jumpers might get the headlines and his blocks might get the highlights, but it’s his rebounding that is pushing this team to new heights.
  • XRM and Bake did not have a great shooting game. (Although X did hit a big time three with about 6:30 left in the game and Bake’s drive to the hoop with just under 3:30 was also crucial in keeping the lead). The two combined for 21 points on a whopping 25 shots. But part of this is due to opposing teams now designing defenses to stop those two—which allows for guys like Isaac and Mann to take advantage of mismatches. Further, after settling for too many jumpers in the first half, the backcourt duo exhibited more patience in the second half, taking what the defense gave to them and getting others involved. 5 combined assists may not seem like much, but keep in mind this was a game that featured only 16 total assists by both teams.
  • Free throws (both getting to the line and making the shots) helped FSU win the game. The ‘Noles lead the ACC in FT rate by a healthy margin and they took 36 more attempts on Saturday. And while 69.4% may not seem great, it’s a large improvement from the 46% they shot in Chapel Hill. In fact, if you remove Terance Mann’s 3-9 mark, the rest of the Seminoles went 22-27 from the stripe. Mann has improved his FT stroke immensely from last year, but after shooting 46% from the line his freshman season, it’s still a work in progress. The good news is, Mann is regarded as one of the hardest workers on the team and there’s no doubt he will keep putting in long hours at the free throw line in practice.

Post Game:

FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton:

“They show man, they go zone, they go matchup. They do a lot of things to create a lot of indecision on our part. Once we settled down and just tried to move the ball and not allow ourselves to get too confused as to what they were doing, we were a little more efficient.” —speaking about Louisville’s defense

“Jonathan has the innate ability to play the game the right way— I mean he only took seven shots [today]…you would think a guy of his caliber would be a lot more aggressive in hunting shots...he’s totally involved in every possession, he’s on the bench communicating with his teammates on the floor; he’s a special kind of guy. But he’s confident now, when the game is on the line...He allows the game to come to him.”

“We said [at halftime] we might have been settling a little too much for our perimeter shot...We don’t want them to be hesitant, but we did focus a little bit more on trying to get into the paint.”

“We went more with our starters today because they’re defensive schemes were different than some of the things that our newer players have been exposed to. So we went with our veterans a little more...I’m sure the next game it’ll be different.”

Jonathan Isaac on his rebounding prowess, the team’s 6-1 start, the upcoming road trip, and more.

Dwayne Bacon on how his game winning three against UVA jump-started the ‘Noles in ACC play, the play of FSU’s freshmen, what style of game he prefers, and more.

Terance Mann on how versatile this FSU team is, coming out of this difficult stretch of ranked opponents with a 5-1 record, and more.

Last but certainly not least, Michael Ojo talks the difficulties of the upcoming three-game road trip, as well as how this team has been able to win in so many different ways and more.

Waiting at the Scorer’s Table:

After surviving a grueling stretch of six consecutive games against ranked opponents, FSU’s reward is...a three game road trip. While there might not be any numbers next to the names of these next three opponents, the games might be every bit as challenging. Home teams have won nearly 70% of ACC matchups this season, which is the highest percentage out of all 32 conferences in the country.

Florida State begins the road swing with a trip to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets this coming Wednesday.