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Baseline Breakdown: Florida State topples Virginia Tech

Depth. It helps.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Returning to the court for the first time since handing UVA just their second home ACC loss in four years, Florida State defeated the other team from Virginia 93-78.

Above the Rim:

  • I’ve spent my fair share of time criticizing the Seminole fans for their lack of support to the basketball program, so let me also give credit where credit is due. Saturday’s crowd was on time, mostly filled the lower bowl, and were really into the game. There was much appreciation for the hustle of the men in garnet and gold and plenty of high-fiving after threes, dunks, blocks, and steals. In short, it was a fun atmosphere and one that hopefully continues.
  • Virginia Tech’s guards were very quick and their dribble penetration was really breaking down the Seminole defense early. (It also didn’t help that every time FSU tried to be aggressive on D they were whistled for a foul). But FSU adjusted, led by hounding defense from freshmen Trent Forrest and CJ Walker, and FSU was able to generate steals and easy transition buckets.
  • Sloppy passes leading to easy buckets for VT really kept the Hokies in the game in first half. The Noles have to do a better job of maintaining focus on every possession if they want to take down Duke.
  • Offensive rebounds were critical to FSU’s success, especially early. FSU snared six offensive boards on first 11 missed shots and finished the 1st half getting 50% of available offensive rebounds. Many were on tip-ins following missed layups.
  • It was a relatively quiet offensive day for Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac (I say relatively, as they still scored 17 and 13 points respectively) and yet FSU still scored 93 points and won by 15 against a top 25 team. That speaks volumes about this team’s depth. In fact, at times Hamilton played 5 players off the bench all at once. For the game, the Florida State bench outscored Virginia Tech’s 35-6.

Court Level:

  • Terance Mann is a stud. He was all over the place, stuffing the stat sheet per usual, but today he actually added a jumper too. After the game, Coach Hamilton and the players spoke about how the team sat Mann down and told him they have confidence in him and he has to start shooting more perimeter jumpers when he’s open. I tell you what, if Terance adds a reliable jumper to his repertoire he will be nearly impossible to guard.
  • VT went to a 2-3 zone late in the first half to help preserve some legs and Ham countered by inserting PJ Savoy. The zone was immediately busted. That’s a pretty nice luxury to have.
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes played a fantastic game. He was under control, kept the tempo at FSU’s preferred pace, found his teammates in ideal situations, and played very good defense too. He finished with 8 assists against just 1 turnover in only 22 minutes of action.
  • Chris Koumadje hurt his ankle in the first half and went immediately to the locker room. He did come out and shoot around after half with a heavily taped ankle, but no boot. Hamilton said he could have played if needed, but we’ve heard that before. Koumadje may not be a star, but he is a big part of FSU’s depth, and depth is critical when going through the ACC grind.
  • CJ Walker was a hornet on defense in the second half (after getting aggressively fouled to the ground on a drive). He flew around all over the place, stinging any Tech big who brought the ball down to his level. His energy is infectious and the hustle really frustrated VT, while also bringing the crowd to life several times. Coach Ham heaped tons of praise on this young man after the game.
  • Jonathan Isaac’s rebounding, especially on the defensive end, is enormous for this team’s success. It just can’t be understated how much he does outside of scoring that helps this team win.
  • FSU closed out the game well from the free throw line, going 24-32 (75%) for the game, including 17-22 in second half. That was nice to see after a woeful performance from the charity stripe against UVA.

Post-game Quotes and Notes:

Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams gave a fascinating presser, delving into topics ranging from FSU’s talent and depth (he called this team the best team Leonard Hamilton has ever had), to nuanced discussions of field goal percentage defense, to his immense respect for Coach Hamilton. He even touches on the “demented pleasure” he gets when seeing other teams suffer through the grind of ACC play. I could give a bunch of quotes, but they wouldn’t do him justice. Just watch the footage below filmed by our own Curt Weiler.

I will transcribe one quote, though, as it bears repeating:

“I’m not sure there’s any coach in the country that I respect more than Coach [Hamilton]. I love his story. I don’t think he gets the credit that he deserves...nationally I don’t think he gets the credit that he deserves.”

FSU coach, Leonard Hamilton:

“We got tremendous help off the bench. Some guys came in and gave us some hustle points, some deflections, some steals, some easy baskets.”

“The best thing about this game is I feel like we still have a lot of room for improvement.”

“Terance [Mann] gave us a lot of hustle baskets, a lot of rebounds and deflections.”

“Jarquez [Smith] gave us some good play.”

“Our guys are trying to do what we have asked them to do. Defensively we are trying to be sound. We are still trying to move the ball to get the highest percentage shots. Our guys play tremendously unselfishly.”

Hamilton expanded on how critical the depth is to his team’s success this year saying that last year VT was able to come back from a double digit deficit after FSU was forced to go to a zone to stay fresh. This year he could roll in fresh guys in the second half and they were able to maintain intensity and the lead.

“CJ [Walker] has a unique confidence level that’s beyond most freshmen...for a youngster he’s probably given as much leadership on the bench as anyone on our team. He loves to play defense, he’s very competent offensively...he’s showing that the future’s pretty bright.”

“[Terance’s] teammates have been encouraging him to be a little more aggressive from the perimeter with his jump shot because he’s worked very hard and they have confidence that he’ll make that shot...maybe five or six guys said ‘Man, you just gotta shoot the ball.’ They all have confidence in him, so he responded very well...but more than anything else, he makes a lot of good decisions that don’t show up in the statistical column.”

Dwayne Bacon gave his thoughts on the win.

Terance Mann discusses his career day, being encouraged to shoot, and more.

Jarquez Smith talks about the role of the bench and what it’s like to be a part of FSU history.

Waiting at the Scorers Table

With two consecutive victories over top 25 teams, Florida State’s murderers row continues on Tuesday night as the Duke Blue Devils come to Tallahassee. If FSU ends up in the top 10 in the next poll, it would be the first top 10 match-up in Tallahassee in at least two decades.