Sports are not often a place for moral victories, but there was a sense of exactly that after No. 24 Florida State took No. 4 Duke to the brink in Cameron Indoor Stadium before falling 100-93 to the Blue Devils.
What kept the Seminoles in the game throughout and what kept them from winning in the end? Here’s an inside look:
Above the Rim
- Coming into Saturday’s matchup, it was widely thought that it would take an epic performance from FSU defensively to shut down Duke’s offense which entered the weekend as the nation’s most efficient. How well did Florida State live up to the small task? Not well at all. Against an FSU defense that was mixing man and zone, Duke scored 1.23 points per possession, although many of these points were the result of extended possessions after not being able to grab the rebound. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam since pre-season; if FSU wants to reach their full potential, the ’Noles simply have to be stronger on the defensive glass. Duke’s 1.23 PPP is the most against FSU this season. That FSU was able to keep it close until the very end despite a lackluster showing defensively says a lot about how strong an offensive showing it was for the Seminoles.
- FSU kept in the shootout with the Blue Devils behind a sturdy 1.15 points per possession, the third highest total Duke has surrendered this season. This can be attributed to a few team aspects. For one, the Seminoles won the three-point lottery against Duke, hitting 15 of 32 three pointers (46.9%) while the Blue Devils were 8-30 (26.7%). Additionally, FSU noticeably outperformed Duke from the charity stripe. The Seminoles hit 16 of 22 free throws (72.7%) while the Devils were 14-25 (56%). Florida State also benefitted from strong ball security against a Duke team that doesn’t force many turnovers. The ’Noles struggled at times in penetrating Duke’s zone defense, but only turned it over on 13.6% of its possessions, well below their season average of 18.9%.
- Tomahawk Nation’s game story about the loss to Duke did well to highlight the two main individual performances that kept the Seminoles in the game, those of Phil Cofer in the first half and Braian Angola in the second. However, it’s also worth discussing the early showing from a freshman playing in his first ACC game. M.J. Walker was a big factor on offense in the first half, while FSU was struggling to generate points outside of Cofer. Walker scored 10 points in 14 first-half minutes on 4-9 shooting (2-5 from 3). His production disappeared in the second half when he took just one shot and scored no points in seven minutes of action. However, Walker being so unaffected by such a hostile environment in the first ACC game of his career is a promising sign going forward for him over the rest of FSU’s difficult road ACC slate.
- It’s quite incredible that FSU was able to go toe-to-toe with Duke while its leading scorer on the year was stifled nearly entirely on the offensive end. Terance Mann, who entered Saturday averaging 15.1 points per game, was held scoreless until there were 10 minutes and 52 seconds left in the game. Duke’s length took away the biggest strength of Mann’s game, his ability to penetrate, and that will hardly be the last time this season that happens. Mann finished with 9 points on 2-6 shooting, but also had a game high four turnovers. He did make a big 3-pointer in the 2nd half to keep FSU close.
- More interesting even than Cofer’s standout performance against the Blue Devils were Leonard Hamilton’s comments about Cofer’s eligibility in his postgame press conference. At the end of an answer about Cofer and his play this season, Hamilton said, “He’s going to graduate in the spring and hopefully we might even have him for another year.” This comment is interesting as Cofer, a fourth-year player who did not redshirt, is in what should be his senior season. However, Cofer played in just 11 of FSU’s 34 games in the 2015-2016 season after suffering an ankle injury. The NCAA rules for a potential medical redshirt state that a player has to have played in less than 30% of a team’s game in a season to qualify. Cofer’s 11 games out of a possible 34 comes out to 32.4%. Is this a hard and fast rule or is there room for flexibility? Does the fact that Cofer was clearly not back to 100% a season ago factor in? It will be months before anything is known as medical redshirts are not applied for or ruled on until a player’s “senior season” has been completed. If Cofer is granted a redshirt, it would be a huge boost with how improved he has been this season.
Hamilton, as well as Cofer and Angola, addressed the media after the game, discussing the possibility of a moral victory after a close loss, along with what the Seminoles can learn from Saturday and carry forward the rest of the season.
Florida State Seminoles Basketball coach Leonard Hamilton talks Phil Cofer, moral victories after a close loss at Duke.Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Saturday, December 30, 2017
Phil Cofer on his career day in Florida State Seminoles Basketball’s loss at Duke.Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Saturday, December 30, 2017
Florida State Seminoles Basketball guard Braian Angola discusses how the team can grow from its disappointing loss at Duke.Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Saturday, December 30, 2017
FSU is right back at it Wednesday, opening its home conference schedule with the tall task of another highly ranked team, this time No. 13 North Carolina.