Florida State rallied and nearly pulled off what it was unable to do all season long in completely erasing a sizable halftime deficit to pull out a victory away from the Donald L. Tucker Center. Although it’s easy to dwell on the negatives after a disheartening loss like this one, there are also many positives, particularly about that second half, which must be addressed.
Notre Dame’s ridiculous three-point percentage in the win was a major factor, as it was in each of FSU’s three games against the Irish this year. Notre Dame finished their three-game series vs. FSU this year hitting 50% of their threes (35-70) while averaging 38% from outside the arc on the year. In spite of all of this perimeter success, Florida State could very well have come away with a win on Saturday.
The Seminoles, who were thoroughly outrebounded in the February matchup in South Bend, flipped the rebounding script in the semifinal matchup, holding a massive 41-23 advantage on the boards by game’s end. A large part of this can be attributed to Jonathan Isaac. The freshman, who had a minimal scoring impact with five points on 2-7 shooting, racked up 15 boards, a new career high.
In the end, FSU, which looked like the better team for long stretches of the second half, was done in by a poor finish to the first half which saw Notre Dame end the half on a 27-10 run. This can be attributed to Florida State committing 10 first-half turnovers while going 0-7 from outside the arc.
Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann, and Isaac were the consistent offenders in FSU’s ball security woes, combining to commit 11 of FSU’s 18 turnovers. Meanwhile, Xavier Rathan-Mayes had five assists to one turnover, continuing to distribute the ball well within FSU’s system.
For as much as Florida State’s turnovers were an issue, the Seminoles’ inability to force turnovers also proved troublesome. In FSU’s sole win over Notre Dame this season, the Irish, one of the least turnover-prone teams in the country, was forced into 18 turnovers. In ND’s two wins, it committed a combined 18 turnovers, with nine coming in each game.
Even with all of this counting against FSU, the ’Noles definitely still had a chance to swipe a win. The same Florida State team which was held to .722 points per possession in the opening half put up 1.27 points per possession over the final twenty minutes. If not for some bad breaks down the stretch in the form of
Jamie Luckie questionable officiating and poor free throw shooting from the normally solid Isaac, Florida State could have very well come out victorious after trailing by 16 at the half.
Yes, a near-win still appears in the loss column, but the resiliency to make a comeback attempt against a team as good as Notre Dame playing as well as it was says a lot about the ceiling of this FSU team entering the NCAA Tournament.
Now, on the NCAA Tournament, it becomes a hurry up and wait situation for the Seminoles. For the first time in five years, they will not be on the bubble and are solidly in the field. They will officially learn their fate on Sunday before waiting around for a first-round matchup on either Thursday or Friday. In my opinion, FSU is solidly a three seed in the tourney regardless of what happened on Friday or Saturday of the ACC Tournament. Whether this becomes true, though, is still unknown. Luckily for FSU, the truth of the situation is less than 36 hours away.