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Baseline Breakdown: FSU crushes Southern Miss with a barrage of threes

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Basketball is pretty easy when you can’t miss.

NCAA Basketball: Southern Mississippi at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

In the final non-conference game of the 2017-2018 season, FSU demolished an improved Southern Miss team 98-45. In reality, The Seminoles probably aren’t as good as they looked yesterday and the Golden Eagles aren’t that bad.

Above the Rim:

  • To open the game the first unit looked a little like they were running in mud. In fact, Southern Miss led 7-6. Coach Hamilton made a full line change at the under 16 and the second unit, led by M.J. Walker came out blazing from three. The offense awakened the crowd—and the defense—and the result was an 18-0 run over 6 minutes of play that essentially ended the game. Late in the run, Coach Ham made another full line change and the first unit’s energy was better than to start. This is the benefit of depth. Unfortunately, some of the functional depth who can hold their own against Southern Miss likely are not ready to do so in ACC play. But at least for this game, it was nice to see 11 guys log double digit minutes.
  • Despite the score, the Seminoles were not exactly clicking on all cylinders. For most of the second half, FSU sported a turnover rate on the plus side of 20%—and for a decent stretch it was over 25%, with many of the giveaways resulting from sloppy passes. But 60% shooting from the field and 19-36 from deep covers up pretty much any other errors you make. The 19 threes were the second most in school history.
  • Florida State’s defense had an outstanding performance, posting the school’s 7th best defensive efficiency rate since 2002 (the unofficial start of the advanced metrics era). Some of it was missed open shots by Southern Miss, but even Golden Eagles coach Doc Sadler admitted that they rushed many of the good shots they had because of anticipation of FSU’s hounding defense. More on Coach Sadler’s comments below.
  • This is a classic example of why you can’t look at raw numbers when it comes to rebounding. Well you can, but you run the risk of drawing a completely wrong conclusion. Southern Miss and FSU both finished the game with 7 offensive rebounds, which on the surface looks like a tie. But as was noted above, FSU looked like the Pleasantville team shooting the ball. If you don’t miss shots, you don’t have offensive rebounding opportunities. Keep that in mind the next time you hear some ill-informed announcer say something about rebounding using the raw numbers.
  • The major reason FSU performed much better on the defensive glass is because the guards actually did what they were supposed to do. Hamilton talked about it at length in the post game, but in FSU’s system (we deny entry passes by fronting the post), guards have to be active in rebounding. This includes both putting a body on someone and crashing the help-side glass. This has been emphasized over and over in practice, and for the first time in a while, the guards actually executed.

Court Level:

  • Trent Forrest has an uncanny ability to significantly impact the game without being all that much of a scoring threat and that ability was on full display yesterday. The long-armed sophomore from Chipley will likely never be a sniper from the perimeter, but his vision, athleticism, quickness, ability to get to the rim, and understanding of the defensive principles are all elite. He wowed the crowd with several finishes in the paint (including one that would have made Pistol Pete proud) and put up an eye-popping 12 assists in just 18 minutes. Add in 3 steals and 6 rebounds—all defensive—and Forrest earned his first KenPom game MVP of the season. After the game, Coach Ham mentioned that Trent is really just getting back to full speed from his fall-camp injury.
  • PJ Savoy finally got hot from 3. Maybe he just likes playing Southern Miss (he’s now 12-20 from three in two games against them), but nonetheless it was good for him to see some shots go through the hoop. And perhaps even more encouraging was his team-leading 7 rebounds, all on the defensive glass.
  • M.J. Walker seems to be pretty boom or bust—which is typical of a freshman. Coming off a zero-point performance against Charleston Southern (his third of the season), Walker put up 15 points on 5-8 shooting from deep. But what I appreciate most from him is that his energy on defense is usually pretty similar, regardless of how he is shooting. That’s a good sign for a young guy.
  • Mfiondu Kabengele played and didn’t show any ill-effects from the injury that kept him sidelined against Charleston Southern. That’s especially good news with Christ Koumadje still sporting a boot and an unknown time table for return. Fi doesn’t always have big rebounding numbers, but he usually does a decent job of getting a body on someone, which at least helps a teammate to come free for the board. He also showed off the potential of his complete game by draining a pair of high arching threes.
  • Braian Angola shot well and he always hustles on defense. But he continued a concerning trend of turnovers. Angola had just a 13.7% turnover rate last year, compared to 22.4% coming into this game. Including the Southern Miss game, he’s had 3+ turnovers in 4 of last 7 games.
  • Travis Light showed his talent as a catch and shoot guy, nailing two threes in a span of about a minute after Hamilton emptied the bench. The scholarship guys were celebrating as if they had just watched him hit a game winner against UNC.

Post Game:

I’m having some technical issues with the video, but I’ll include some of the major takeaways here. If the videos allow themselves to upload, I’ll add them.

  • Coach Sadler noted that while there are not a lot of positives to take away from a 53 point loss, it was awesome for him and his players to see just how much camaraderie the FSU team plays with. He mentioned the unselfishness and the starters on the bench cheering on the walk-ons. He was so impressed at what Coach Hamilton has been able to accomplish he asked for advice so he can go home and try to build a culture and team chemistry that emulates FSU’s.
  • I asked Coach Sadler about the differences between this year’s FSU team vs last year’s. Without hesitation he noted the defense as much improved, especially with how this year’s team puts pressure on the ball and ball handler. He said he feels his team is much improved over last year, but you just couldn’t tell because FSU’s defense wouldn’t allow them to execute any of their offense.
  • I asked Coach Hamilton if he had one new year’s resolution for this team, what would it be. His immediate response was, “consistency.”
  • Coach Hamilton repeatedly mentioned being a work in progress and that they must get better in several areas, with defensive rebounding and keeping the ball from sticking in one place being chief among them. As noted above, he put most of the blame for the defensive rebounding woes on the guards.
  • Ham also shared that after the Charleston Southern game they did something a little different. They split the players up into three groups and put them in charge of grading the game film and calling out what the team did well and what they didn’t. He said he felt this did a nice job of re-grounding them in the mindset they possessed coming off the summer trip, ensuring they all hold each other accountable.
  • Trent Forrest doubled down on Ham’s comments and said the self-scouting exercise made a huge difference in how they approached this game compared to the Charleston Southern game. He said some of the mistakes they made, some of the things the coaches preach over and over but they keep making the same mistakes, were pretty eye-opening and that he hopes they do that exercise again this year.
  • Trent also echoed the belief that the guards simply have to do better with rebounding. He noted that he has been watching tape of Derwin Kitchen and Russell Westbrook to emulate some of their execution and tenacity on the boards.
  • Trent and P.J. both agreed that the team needs to increase their consistency if they want to make it through the grind of ACC play. P.J. said it starts in practice and that every day they have to work like they did this week.

Looking Ahead:

FSU gets a break for Christmas, before opening ACC play on the road against a top-five Duke squad on Saturday, December 30th. It’s the first of three consecutive conference games against top-10 opponents.