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Baseline Breakdown: FSU survives Syracuse, finds a way to win in double OT

The Seminoles win a must-win game.

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

Florida State came into Saturday at 1-3 in the league, without their leading scorer/rebounder Terance Mann, and facing a top 15 defense. After an U-G-L-Y start, the Seminoles scored 70 points after half-time and got the win in a double OT thriller, 101-90.

Above the Rim:

  • As you would expect, FSU missed Mann’s ability to slash and finish at the rim, as well as his knack for punishing the short corner. And that’s just on offense. His defense on Tyus Battle would have been mighty helpful too. But the Seminoles did what you have to do in big boy basketball leagues—found a way to win. Tip of the cap to the rest of the team for stepping up and gutting it out. Of course, if you listen to Jim Boeheim, FSU caught a break by having Mann out because “he doesn’t score against Syracuse” and that PJ is a much tougher player for them to defend. I didn’t ask him, but my guess is Coach Hamilton would have preferred to roll the dice with his best player in the lineup...
  • There was a commitment to rebounding from the start and it paid off. FSU couldn’t buy a bucket early, but tenacious offensive rebounding helped them manufacture points. And on the defensive end, despite missing Mann, FSU held the 3rd best offensive rebounding team in the country below their season average. Guys like Trent Forrest, CJ Walker, and Mfiondu Kabengele were all monsters on the defensive glass, while Chris Koumadje, Phil Cofer, and Forrest were borderline unstoppable on the offensive boards. It was a total team effort and that’s exactly how it needs to be for this team to scratch out 10+ wins in ACC play.
  • Unlike the Louisville game, FSU finished the first half strong. The ‘Noles scored the final 7 points of the opening 20 stanza, culminated by a beautiful feed from Braian Angola to Koumadje for a dunk just before the buzzer. This lead to a double-digit half time lead for the third time in as many ACC home games.
  • Unfortunately, for the third time in as many ACC home games, that 10 point half time lead evaporated minutes into the second half. I’m not sure what the overarching cause is for this second half collapses, but it’s got to get figured out. We’ve talked about how “learning how to win” is a skill just like dribbling or shooting. But at some point you have to start learning from your trials and tribulations. This league is too good to let opponents off the hook, and if you give them some momentum, there’s enough talent on every team to burn you. Credit FSU for being able to stop the bleeding, crawl back from down 7, and win the battle of attrition with the Orange. But one of these games it would be nice to see FSU come out of half and extend a lead.
  • I don’t typically write about opposing players in this space, but Tyus Battle deserves mention. He put on one of the more remarkable performances I’ve seen by an opponent in Tallahassee. The sophomore played nearly every second of a 50 minute game, scored 37 points, and hit NBA shot after NBA shot after NBA shot. For most of the game we simply had no answer for him. After regulation Coach Ham made a move to start face guarding him, and at times doubling him 40 feet away from the basket, just to get the ball out of his hands. This adjustment worked, as a tired Battle started playing a little out of control. But all in all, it was a heck of a performance by that kid.

Court Level:

  • Trent Forrest was sensational in his 40 minutes of play, despite only scoring 7 points. The sophomore, who has talked about watching film of great rebounding guards like Derwin Kitchen and Russell Westbrook, set a career high with 11 boards and also distributed 7 assists against the tough Cuse zone. Some might criticize his lack of a jumper—and it does allow the opposing defense to sag off him, but his overall contributions and toughness far outweigh his lack of a jumper at this point. Plus, while he doesn’t score often, he knows when he needs to pick his spots, like the tremendous floater in the lane that tied the game with 25 seconds left in overtime number one.
  • Braian Angola was FSU’s MVP. With Mann out, the coaches decided to try Angola at the center of Syracuse’s zone and the move worked out quite well. Angola, who said he had played at the center of a zone once or twice in Colombia, kept FSU in the game with timely buckets and brilliant passing, dissecting the soft spots in Syracuse’s 2-3. He displayed tremendous awareness on lobs to Koumadje, often making a near touch pass from the FT line. And after PJ went down with injury, Angola stepped out to hit several big threes, with his last putting the nail in the Orange coffin with a couple minutes left in OT number two.
  • PJ Savoy has struggled with his shot this season and seen his minutes curtailed accordingly. But yesterday, with FSU on the ropes, Savoy showed up big time and just may have saved the season. With FSU trailing by four and only seven minutes remaining, Savoy hit back to back bombs to give the Seminoles a jolt—and a two point lead. In total, Savoy hit 3 threes, grabbed a rebound, and dished an assist in 17 minutes of play, the most minutes he’s ever played in an ACC game. Sadly, the junior’s day came to a premature end when he suffered what appeared to be a painful leg injury and had to be helped off the court with two minutes left in regulation. He will almost certainly miss the Boston College game, and possibly extended time.
  • Chris Koumadje, still working his way back into shape after missing two months, was massive off the bench. He cleaned up all kinds of trash around the rim, finishing with six offensive rebounds, and was almost unstoppable on the lobs from Angola. And while his free throw shooting wasn’t fantastic, he made enough not to force FSU to take him off the court. In total, the junior played 13 more minutes (35) than his previous career high, scored a career high 23 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, blocked 4 shots, and altered countless more. Great to have you back, big guy.
  • Phil Cofer has struggled a little after starting his senior year on fire. Perhaps it’s just been a slump, perhaps the heavy minutes started taking a toll, but the struggles have been there. But on this day Cofer came up big. His presence on the glass was badly needed and three ball from the corner pocket late in regulation would have been a game winner if not for Battle’s crazy shot. On a day when FSU was thin and needed leaders to step up, Phil played 45 minutes of very good basketball.
  • While Mfiondu Kabengele only played 14 minutes due to foul trouble, he made quite an impact during his limited time. Yes, the redshirt freshman is still learning how to play at this level, but his game is developing by the month. Fi hit two critical threes and was aggressive on the defensive glass, and corralled two steals at junctures of the game when FSU badly needed stops.

Post Game:

Jim Boeheim was visibly upset after being asked about his team’s fourth consecutive loss:

Syracuse Basketball head coach Jim Boeheim was visibly upset after getting questioned about his team's fourth conference lost, the latest to Florida State Seminoles Basketball.

Posted by on Saturday, January 13, 2018

Florida State Seminoles Basketball head coach Leonard Hamilton talks about the challenges the team will face playing an away game just two days after a double-overtime win.

Posted by on Saturday, January 13, 2018

Braian Angola on playing in the center of Cuse’s zone:

Braian Angola after FSU win over Syracuse.

Braian Angola continued his hot streak for Florida State Seminoles Basketball, scoring a career-high 24 points.

Posted by on Saturday, January 13, 2018

Christ Koumadje set a career high in points and was a huge factor in the Florida State Seminoles Basketball victory.

Posted by on Saturday, January 13, 2018

Phil Cofer on his late three and the challenge of facing Tyus Battle:

Phil Cofer following FSU win over Syracuse

Posted by on Saturday, January 13, 2018

Looking Ahead:

FSU faces a quick turnaround and must travel to Chestnut Hill for a Monday night matchup against a vastly improved Boston College team that has already beat Duke at home. In a scheduling oddity, BC wasn’t even forced to play an ACC team ahead of this short turnaround, instead cruising past Dartmouth at home on Saturday. Coach Hamilton stated that FSU would likely be without Mann and Savoy for the contest.