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Baseline breakdown: Mfiondu Kabengele shines in FSU’s win over The Citadel

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The redshirt freshman had his first career double-double in the victory which improved FSU to 5-0 on the season.

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

A 30-point spread didn’t prove too daunting for the Florida State basketball team Friday night as the Seminoles improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2011 with their dominant 113-78 win over The Citadel.

Above the Rim

  • FSU was criticized for its effort, and rightfully so, in Wednesday’s game against Kennesaw State. It’s unclear exactly what head coach Leonard Hamilton said to his team, but the effort, especially on the boards and on defense, was greatly improved on Friday. The Seminoles took advantage of their superior length to shut down the interior, holding The Citadel to 32.5% inside the arc. They also forced 17 turnovers and attacked the glass, finishing with 16 offensive boards. Allowing 17 offensive rebounds is a bit troubling, but a number of those happened after the walk-ons were inserted and, against a team that takes as many outside shots as The Citadel, long rebounds are going to occur and can be more difficult to judge or prepare for. Time will tell how much of a problem this will be, but it was promising to see a response in effort level on Friday.
  • This team, although talented, is not built to withstand attrition. Early this season, that’s exactly what the Seminoles are dealing with. Already without starting center Christ Koumadje, who will miss an undetermined amount of time with a lower body injury (Hamilton said 4-6 weeks), true freshman MJ Walker left Friday’s game with an ankle injury. That leaves FSU missing its best big and its hottest three-point shooter for a yet unknown period of time. With a trio of non-conference games on the horizon that could be crucial come Selection Sunday (@Rutgers, @UF, vs. Oklahoma State in Sunrise) these injuries could be hugely detrimental to the Seminoles’ postseason chances, depending on their severity.
  • With Walker, a 50% three-point shooter in FSU’s first five games, going down against the Bulldogs, the onus shifts to some other Seminoles to rise to the task from outside the arc. Especially in the second half on Friday, they were up to the task. Senior guard Braian Angola led that charge as the Seminoles hit 10-19 (52.6%) threes in the second half before the walk-ons entered in the closing minutes. Angola hit six of his seven threes in the second half and PJ Savoy, FSU’s go-to perimeter shooter a season ago, had his strongest half this season from outside the arc, going 3-5 (60%). Even Terance Mann, who has been extremely hesitant from three this season, took six threes, which goes a long way towards setting up his elite inside game at the rim.
  • Despite a hectic game between two teams that run their offenses frantically fast, FSU did well to take care of the ball and not carelessly turn the ball over against a team with a knack for forcing opponents to do exactly that. Entering Friday, The Citadel turned over its opponents on 23.4% of its defensive possessions. In 85 possessions with scholarship players on the court, FSU committed 12 turnovers (14.1%). Especially running at such a frenetic pace against a team that likes to do the same, that’s a very respectable mark.

Court Level

  • Without Koumadje, it’s expected for FSU to play a smaller lineup, as they did for stretches Friday with Mfiondu Kabengele at the center position. That necessity is made far easier when the center in that lineup rebounds far beyond his height. Kabengele, 6’9 with a 7’4 wingspan, is among the best offensive rebounders nationally, averaging an offensive rebound on 24.2% of his team’s misses when he is on the court. If he played in 4% more of his team’s minutes and qualified for the leaderboard, that would be the second highest percentage in the nation. He has a strong case for being FSU’s best rebounder without exception. Hamilton and the players were extremely complimentary of Kabengele after the game, discussing the progress he has made and the fact that he still has significant room for improvement. 16 points and 12 rebounds (five offensive) in 14 minutes of action Friday backs up Kabengele’s impact and is a testament to how he seems the most likely candidate to soften the blow that Koumadje’s absence deals.
  • Another adapted big had his second straight strong performance against the Bulldogs as senior forward Phil Cofer, called upon to make a bigger impact inside, did exactly that. After matching his career high with 21 points Wednesday against Kennesaw State, Cofer racked up 15 in Friday’s blowout victory. All he did in this week’s two games was make 16-20 shots from the floor and serve as a leader on the floor, leading the Seminoles’ effort even when some were not committed to it. It’s highly improbable that Cofer stays anywhere near that level of production when ACC play kicks into gear, but whatever fountain of youth Cofer has found in his final year in Tallahassee could be big for the Seminoles over the rest of the season.

Postgame

Hamilton and a few players talked to the media after Friday’s game. Hamilton went in depth on how Kabengele is “just scratching the surface” of what he is capable of.

Florida State Seminoles Basketball coach Leonard Hamilton brags on Mfiondu Kabengele after FSU’s 113-78 win over The Citadel.

Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Friday, November 24, 2017

Terance Mann claims to have known what Kabengele would be capable of this season.

Terance Mann talks Mfiondu Kabengele’s development, the fun of playing in Florida State Seminoles Basketball’s up-tempo offense.

Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Friday, November 24, 2017

PJ Savoy talks about shooting his way out of a slump, the vast improvement of Mfiondu Kabengele, and more.

Braian Angola discusses his career night, not being defined by any one position, and much more.

Looking Ahead

The Seminoles begin a two-game road trip on Tuesday, taking on Rutgers in New Jersey in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge before traveling to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators the Monday after.