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Baseline Breakdown: Florida State Produces a Masterpiece against Clemson

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The Statue of David. Starry Night. FSU’s obliteration of Clemson.

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

Sometimes an artist produces a piece of work that leaves you speechless. You gaze in awe, aware of the supreme spectacle you’re witnessing, but not really able to truly grasp the totality of the masterpiece in your feeble mind. Nonetheless, I’ll try to put into words some of what we witnessed.

Above the Rim:

  • Dwayne Bacon came out on fire and really set the tone for the whole game. After the Miami game we noted his prolonged shooting slump. In the first four minutes on Sunday he hit a one-dribble 19 footer, a deep three, two free throws, and added an assist for good measure. All told, Bake poured in 18 first half points (on just 8 shots) and 29 for the game ( on 10-14 shooting). He probably could have hit for 40 if it was needed. The super sophomore also contributed 2 assists (one of them a straight up dime to a streaking Terance Mann for an ally-oop) and 3 rebounds in just 26 minutes. We all knew Bacon would bust out of his slump at some point--he’s just too good of an all-around scorer. Nice to see it sooner rather than later.
  • After an early sequence where a defender fell down and led to an open Clemson three, the Seminole defenders really turned it up a notch. They were picking up pressure on the ball-handler at half-court (Xavier Rathan-Mayes did a tremendous job of this), playing aggressive, switching man-to-man defense two feet beyond the three-point line, getting their hands on all kinds of passes and shots, beautifully funneling ball handlers into no man’s land along the baseline. This all resulted in Clemson turning the ball over on 37.8% of their first half possessions, which of course led to plenty of transition opportunities for FSU. And when this Florida State team is able to crank up the tempo by turning defense into offense...they are pretty dang scary.
  • With 8:56 to go in the first half, Clemson’s Marcquise Reed completed an “and1” to bring the Tigers within seven at 28-21. Florida State promptly closed the half on a 23-4 run and went into the locker room up 51-25. The Seminoles forced seven turnovers during that stretch--most of them live ball—and also displayed tremendous patience and unselfishness on the possessions they had to play in the half-court offense. The ability to explode for this kind of devastating run is a trait we have seen all season long from FSU and it’s something that can really come in handy during the NCAA Tournament—when allowing a lesser team to hang around can often result in being on the painful end of a March Madness upset.
  • Opening up a big first half lead is great. But as FSU found out against Temple earlier in the season, teams don’t just go away. So perhaps even more impressive than Florida State’s first half closing run of devastation was the way the Seminoles came out and stepped on the Tiger’s throat in the second half. After Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame opened the second half with layup to make the score 51-27, Florida State displayed a flurry of jabs and body blows, quickly pushing the lead out to 33 two and half minutes into the second. By the under 12 media timeout, FSU led 80-42 and the game was over.
  • The Seminole’s shooting was otherworldly. You can’t possibly expect them to replicate this night in and night out, but we can certainly appreciate it when it happens. For the game FSU shot 66% from the field, 56% (on 30 attempts) from 3, and 83% from the stripe. All thirteen players who saw action scored and TEN guys scored at least six points.

Court Level:

  • Little by little Terance Mann is growing more confident in his jumper...and that’s a really good thing. His teammates have been begging him to shoot more for weeks. He needs to shoot when he’s open. The offense is predicated on guys taking open shots in rhythm so when someone passes up a shot that everyone else is anticipating being taken it throws the whole possession off. But Terance came in needing a lot of work on his jumper and has yet to appear confident in his current re-build. But he took (and made) a three against Miami and followed that up against Clemson by making a three and another step-back jumper. The more teams have to start respecting Mann’s jumper, the more he’ll have room to do what he does best—get to the rim and finish.
  • Jonathan Isaac scored two points. For many soon-to-be NBA lottery picks that might result in pouting or even a tantrum. But not Mr. Isaac. Instead, the star freshman played tremendous defense against senior Jaron Blossomgame, grabbed five rebounds, and cheered on his teammates gleefully after big plays. This type of attitude is a huge part of what makes this Seminole basketball team so good (not to mention, so easy to root for). It’s one thing to have talent. It’s another to play with an unselfish spirit; to truly have every player buy in to the “playing for something bigger than yourself” mentality.
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes played a sensational basketball game. He was the head of the aggressive defense, hounding the ball handler 40+ feet away from the basket. He brilliantly directed traffic on offense, displaying patience, nice vision, and consistently breaking down Clemson’s defense off the dribble. He attacked when a lane was there, bailed FSU’s offense out of one of their few stagnant possessions with a fall away jumper, and found open shooters in rhythm time and time again. All in all, X totaled nine assists to just one turnover and added six points, two steals, and two rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
  • Braian Angola-Rodas came off the bench for 12 points (3-3 from three), 3 assists, and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes. This is the kind of play he appeared capable of early in the season before missing a couple games with a foot injury. Since coming back from injury, BAR hasn’t seemed quite right, but against Clemson his quickness and length were on full display. To have a guy with that kind of skill-set and energy coming off the bench is not a luxury afforded by very many basketball teams.
  • CJ Walker and Trent Forrest looked comfortable and decisive on offense and defense. When we last saw the freshmen backcourt duo at home, they appeared overwhelmed by Louisville’s switching defense and NBA length. Today was a completely different story. Now, Clemson isn’t Louisville, but the Tigers still are a top 40 basketball team. CJ and Trent not only brought energy off the bench, they played within the construct of the Seminoles’ principles on O and D. Walker was particularly impressive, notching 6 assists against just a lone turnover and also shooting 2-2 from three and 3-3 from the field.

Post Game Video and Quotes:

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell:

“I apologize to everyone that came to the game—probably missing out on a good super bowl party right now, and had to be here to watch us play.”

“We had 11 live ball turnovers in the first half and against Florida State that’s disaster.”

“When Dwayne shoots the ball like that, it’s uh...it’s difficult.”

“It’s hard for every team in this league to not have a bad week or two, just because there are so many good teams. The depth is really really good. If you don’t play well you’re gonna lose. Maybe Florida State had a bad week a week or so, 10 days ago, but man they’ve piled up a lot of good months for one bad week. They’re just playing at a very high level.”

“They are just so long. And there are so many guys that have weapons to make individual plays. They make more one-on-one baskets. You can guard them and they still score...that’s obviously a separator. You know, those are NBA players.” —when asked what made this Florida State team different from year’s past.

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton:

“We had a tremendous amount of respect for Clemson coming in, and we knew that we had to be on point emotionally and mentally in order to be successful.”

“I’m not real sure that we are 40 points better than them on most days. Today was one of those days.”

“[Bacon] was doing an excellent job defensively and he was doing a good job offensively, so sometimes you take advantage of that.” —On his decision to play Dwayne Bacon for 17 minutes in the first half.

“We have been challenging them...to get into that special frame of mind needed in order to do things [like tonight]...trying to get to that level that separates good teams from great teams. But we’re still growing in that area.”

Coach Ham’s full interview here:

Dwayne Bacon on his and the team’s big day:

FSU guard Braian Angola-Rodas talks about feeling 100% recovered from his injury, the role of the FSU bench, the benefit of having guys like Michael Ojo and Xavier Rathan-Mayes who have been through ACC play before, and what it’s like to play with a special talent like Jonathan Isaac.

Terance Mann on how the team must stay focused with NCSU up next, the importance of doing the little things on defense, and more:

Freshman CJ Walker talks about having fun and getting the crowd involved, staying humble after the success, what it was like to play with Dwayne so hot, and more:

Waiting at the Scorer’s Table:

Florida State can’t celebrate their scintillating performance for too long, as a talented NC State team comes to Tallahassee on Wednesday night. While the Wolfpack hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, they have enough talent (led by a future NBA point guard, Dennis Smith, Jr.) to beat just about anyone.