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Baseline Breakdown: FSU overcomes slow start to defeat Charleston Southern

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The Seminoles are 10-1, but it was one of their uglier games of the season.

FSU senior forward Phil Cofer
Tomahawk Nation

Call it a hangover from the first loss of the season. Call it a look ahead to an incredibly challenging beginning to the ACC slate or the upcoming break. Whatever you want to blame, something had the Florida State basketball team completely uninterested in playing to the best of its abilities Monday against Charleston Southern. This showed as the Seminoles underwhelmed in many phases while coasting to a 69-58 win over a CSU team that currently sits as the No. 296 team in the RPI.

What played into the underwhelming performance?

Above the Rim

  • I would call it fortuitous that FSU saved its worst half of basketball so far this season for one of its worst opponents. For the entire opening 20 minutes, the Seminoles were unable to string any kind of run, were dominated on the glass (although there were extenuating circumstances which contributed there), lacked energy and were ineffective from the floor despite a number of open looks. A quick start to the second half quickly created a double-digit lead that remained for the rest of the game, but the bad taste from the first half will linger.
  • The circumstances briefly mentioned above are that FSU was forced to play without two of its three best bigs against the Buccaneers Monday. Starting center Christ Koumadje’s absence was expected as he missed his eighth straight game last night while dealing with a leg injury, but Mfiondu Kabengele, a spark off the bench for the Seminoles this season, was also out with a sprained foot. As is to be expected, these absences affected FSU inside. In the first half, the ’Noles were outrebounded 24-12 on a comparable number of missed shots. That margin lessened somewhat in the second half, but Charleston Southern won the offensive glass battle convincingly, 15-4, albeit with 12 more missed shots than FSU. The truth is that, even at full strength, defensive rebounding has been a problem for Florida State this season. Down two bigs for the time being, it could be a major problem.
  • Monday’s game was one of those that happen during out-of-conference play where even when Florida State wins, it loses. Despite the victory, FSU’s RPI fell from 39 to 45 with the win. Expect that to take another noticeable hit Thursday and drop FSU out of the Top 50 after what should be a win over Southern Miss. These examples of poor scheduling will not be enough to keep the Seminoles out of the NCAA Tournament if they finish as currently projected in the ACC, but the impact they could have on seeding is undeniable.

Court Level

  • Maybe it’s because the game has started to slow down for him or maybe being thrust into a larger role than expected has helped him develop quicker. Whatever it is, Monday’s game was a display of how far freshman center Ikey Obiagu has come. He still struggled at times playing without fouling, playing just eight minutes and picking up two fouls. But, when he was on the floor, the strides he has made were evident. He remains an elite shot blocker, rejecting three or more shots for the eighth time in 11 games on Monday. His eight points on 3-4 shooting was the second most of his young career as his hands, an issue at times, looked much improved. He also had five rebounds for the second straight game, rising to the occasion with FSU missing two of its best board crashers.
  • It’s past time to admit it. FSU has a PJ Savoy problem. The junior continues to underwhelm this season after emerging as a three-point phenom off the bench a season ago. With plenty of minutes available after it was announced that Kabengele would be out Monday, Savoy was a prime candidate to play more. In the first half, he played seven minutes. However, after going 0-4 from the floor (0-2 from 3) over that span, he played just two minutes in the second half, marking the sixth time in the last eight games Savoy has played single-digit minutes. A year ago, Savoy hit 40% of his 3s. So far this season, that number has plummeted to 30% as he continues to attempt to shoot himself out of his significant slump.
  • Even while missing his first game of the season, Kabengele still filled the energizer role he often does on the court. The redshirt freshman who plays a key role in FSU’s chaotic defense and uptempo offense was a vocal leader on the bench Monday, often barking instructions and consistently being the first person to his feet to congratulate a teammate on a play well made. The good news for FSU is that Kabengele is expected to be back for either Thursday’s game or the beginning of ACC play against Duke on December 30th.

Postgame

FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton talked after the game about Obiagu’s development and the difficulty of playing in the ACC.

Leonard Hamilton on the Florida State Seminoles Basketball victory and brutal schedule to begin ACC play.

Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Monday, December 18, 2017

Some players addressed the media as well as Terance Mann, Phil Cofer and Trent Forrest broke down the game and what is on the horizon for the Seminoles.

Florida State Seminoles Basketball junior Terance Mann talks Ikey Obiagu’s growth, how he plans to prepare the freshman for playing in the ACC.

Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Monday, December 18, 2017

Phil Cofer continues to dominate for Florida State Seminoles Basketball.

Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Monday, December 18, 2017

Trent Forrest on his role on this year’s Florida State Seminoles Basketball team after FSU’s win over Charleston Southern.

Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Monday, December 18, 2017

Looking Ahead

FSU is next in action Thursday afternoon, wrapping up its out-of-conference slate against Southern Miss at 2 p.m.