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Observations from FSU’s second half demolition of Miami

FSU halts their two game losing streak in dominating fashion.

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

Despite an 18-4 start, and nearly twice as many RPI top 25 wins (5) as the next closest team (Villanova with 3), FSU fans were nervous heading into the rivalry matchup in Coral Gables. The Seminoles assuaged the fears of many with a convincing victory on a court where the Hurricanes had lost just once in the last 25 games.

Above the Rim:

  • Energy and effort was not the problem early. FSU came out aggressive and in attack mode, scoring in the first 15 seconds of the game. This was critical, as Miami also came out ready for battle. Both teams displayed ferocious hustle and the refs let the boys play. This felt like March basketball.
  • Unfortunately, for a big stretch of the first half, shot selection was questionable and there were several forced passes and lazy lobs. This led to missed shots, Miami run-outs off long rebounds, and wasted opportunities. This resulted in an 18-14 Seminole lead around the 10 minute mark flipping to a 34-27 Miami lead late in the first half.
  • On the other end, Miami was getting to the rim at will. Some of this was due to two quick fouls on Michael Ojo. Some was a product of FSU switching to a zone that proved mostly ineffective. And some was just great execution by the Hurricanes. Regardless of the reasons, it added up to 16 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes for Miami and three times as many FT attempts as FSU (12-4) during the opening stanza. The second half was a completely different story.
  • Once Florida State made their run to open the 2nd half, Miami seemed to lose a step. Maybe the FSU waves of fresh bodies did it, maybe it was a comedown from their big win over North Carolina. Whatever it was, they weren’t crisp, and the Seminoles were flying all over the place. This resulted in a 30+% turnover rate for Miami in second half.
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes was fantastic in the 2nd half. When Miami went zone, he got the ball into great position. When they went man, he broke them down off the dribble. The half court execution was great.
  • What is with the TV viewing options lately? The ACC is loaded, so not every good game can be shown on ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU. I get it. But why in the world is ACC Network consistently blacked out in Tallahassee? For a home game is one thing, but for a road game? It makes no sense. I’m happy the ACC is committed to moving into the 21st century with streaming options, but FSU has a top 20 basketball team and much of Tallahassee can’t watch the non-ESPN network games. This really needs to be addressed moving forward.

Court Level:

  • FSU was able to stay in the game early due to three-point shooting, mostly thanks to Xavier Rathan-Mayes. XRM hit 3-6 from deep in the first half and PJ Savoy added one too. This allowed FSU to head into half down just three points--a far cry from the 22 and 18 point deficits at Georgia Tech and Syracuse, respectively. Having superior depth is great for second half runs, and FSU has been able to outplay teams in the second half all season long. But coming back from 22 and 18 points is a tall task on the road in the ACC. The depth might have enabled to the second half blowout, but the early three-point shooting put the ‘Noles in position to leverage their depth.
  • Michael Ojo was a difference maker early in the second half. Hampered with early foul trouble, as noted above, the big man came out of the locker room fired up. In the first 6 minutes of the second half, Ojo contributed 5 points, 2 rebounds (one big offensive one that led to three points), 2 steals, and just generally clogged up the paint. This effort helped FSU turn a three point half-time deficit into an 11 point early second half lead.
  • Dwayne Bacon is in a prolonged shooting slump. Back in the Louisville game, he seemed to be settling for long jumpers. But a few games later, he’s actually getting shots inside 15 feet, including many at the rim. Now, he’s still one of the ‘Noles top scorers and is finding other ways to contribute too. But for whatever reason, the elite finisher at the rim has been unable to get many layups and bunnies to drop. I could speculate a dozen reasons why (bad luck, pressing due to frustration, defenses scheming to stop him, mentally fatigued from carrying so much of the load earlier in the year, etc.) but for our purposes the why doesn’t matter. The reality is, FSU’s best all-around scorer has been in a prolonged shooting slump and FSU is finding other ways to put points on the board. Which means if/when the shots start falling again...this offense could really take off.
  • Much has been made about FSU’s “terrible” FT shooting this season (the truth is, FSU was a shade below average coming into the game). But against Miami, shot 14-15 from the stripe, with most of the attempts coming during the defining stretch of the game—early to mid second half.
  • The play of the game just might have been an offensive rebound by the stat stuffer himself, Terance Mann. Trailing 34-27 with under a minute to go in the first half, FSU appeared in danger of heading into the locker room down double digits for the third straight game. Jarquez Smith drew a foul and made the first free throw. Smith then missed the second--the only FT miss for FSU in the game--but Mann was johnny-on-the-spot for the offensive board. Mann, known for his high basketball IQ, knew the Miami defense would be in scramble mode and immediately found an open XRM who promptly buried a three. The four-point possession gave FSU a jolt of momentum and the Seminoles carried that over into the second half.

Waiting at the Scorer’s Table:

The Seminoles now return to Tallahassee for a two game home-stand. The first opponent is a surging Clemson Tiger team that has won two straight after opening ACC play 1-6, including a number of close losses. The game tips at 12:30pm on Sunday, February 5th.