Georgia Tech hung around, but FSU forced enough turnovers and made enough shots to pull away for a crucial 88-77 home win. The Seminoles are now 30-1 at home since an ugly Tucker Center loss to the Yellow Jackets during the 2016 season.
Above the Rim:
- The biggest thing tonight was just getting a victory. Teams that want to hear their name called on Selection Sunday simply cannot afford to drop home games against opponents in the bottom-third of the conference. It wasn’t always pretty, but Florida State held serve at home to get back to .500 in ACC play.
- After several improved showings, defensive rebounding reared its ugly head again. The Yellow Jackets grabbed 50% of their misses in the first half and 47% for the game. FSU is lucky GT isn’t a great shooting team, otherwise the result might have been different. Now, a few of them were off blocked shots that went out of bounds, but there is still zero excuse for allowing an opponent to grab nearly 50% of their missed shots. Josh Okogie, a 6’4 sophomore who admittedly is a fantastic player, snared 9 offensive boards by himself.
- Florida state came out very aggressive to the rim. CJ Walker, Braian Angola, Phil Cofer, and especially Terance Mann were able to repeatedly take their man off the dribble, and repeat they did. FSU has been taking 39% of their shots from 3 in conference play, but in the first half the ‘Noles attempted just six shots behind the arc. With most of the shots being dunks and layups, FSU was able to shoot 62% from the field and score 50 points in the opening stanza.
- The second half began as so many have this year—sloppy and out of sync. FSU’s 14 point halftime lead was cut to 9 two minutes in and Coach Ham quickly called timeout to stop the bleeding. Florida State didn’t exactly pull away coming out of the timeout, but they picked it up enough to essentially play even with the Yellow Jackets for the next 8 minutes or so and FSU never led by less than seven after halftime. A series of steals and pushes off of missed shots midway through the second half allowed the ‘Noles to push it back out to double digits. Now, Georgia Tech is clearly a bottom tier team in the league. Nonetheless, it was nice to see Florida State not allow an opponent to erase a double digit halftime lead.
- FSU helped GT stay in the game with too many fouls. Some of it was aggressive play by GT and some of it was Okogie just being a stud. But a lot of it was simply lazy defense and poor decision making by FSU. Making matters worse, they were often shooting fouls on made GT baskets, resulting in a parade “and 1s.” The Yellow Jackets made FSU pay, too, as they made 24-30 (80%) from the stripe. All of the free throws (and offensive rebounds) led to Tech becoming the 8th consecutive FSU opponent to score more than 1 point per possession.
- A key difference in this game was FSU’s ability to creating turnovers, especially the live ball variety. Forcing turnovers is typically a staple of Leonard Hamilton defenses, but the Seminoles came into the game turning teams over on less than 16% of their possessions in conference play—ranking in the bottom 3 of the ACC. But FSU ratcheted up the pressure in this one up and forced turnovers on 22.2% of GT possessions, including 27% in the first half. This was critical, as the Seminoles were able to score quickly in transition before the stingy Tech defense (18th in the country in 2 point% defense coming in) could get set up in the half court.
- Terance Mann began the game as a playmaker, assisting on 4 of the team’s first 8 baskets. But soon he started calling his own number and was borderline unstoppable attacking the basket. The junior scored 21 in the first half (going a perfect 7-7 from the field and 7-8 from line) and finished with a career high 30 points. Additionally, Mann led FSU in assists (5) and rebounds (5). Just a sensational performance.
- Phil Cofer was quite active in first half. He disrupted the defense early with his shots from the short corner, finished a big time ally oop, drove baseline, and drained a three. By halftime, the senior had 12 points on 5-7 shooting, grabbed three boards, and blocked a shot. But after landing awkwardly at the end of the half on a made basket he limped off in obvious pain. In the second half, he was much less effective, scoring 0 points and grabbing just one rebound in 15 minutes. After the game Hamilton said he would be okay, but let’s hope this isn’t something that hinders his performance this weekend.
- Like many games this season, Braian Angola broke things open with his three point shooting. On a night when FSU only made five threes, Angola was 3-6. His ability to spread the defense is a huge part of why Terance Mann is able to slash to the basket so well. Angola was also a factor on defense, coming up with two steals and just being a general nuisance.
- Ikey Obiagu didn’t play against Virginia Tech, but he saw six first half minutes and made the most of them with two big blocks. He still has miles to go on offense but it will be a huge help in February if the freshman can contribute 5-10 quality minutes a game.
- Brandon Allen also played solid in the first half while FSU dealt with foul trouble. He scored on a nice drive against Tadric Jackson, forced a turnover, and played solid defense. The senior walk-on isn’t going to see many minutes on most nights, but for him to be able to provide effective minutes in spot situations is a huge bonus for this team. Kudos to him for being ready in the moment.
- Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner harped on his team’s inability to protect the basketball and FSU’s ability to turn those turnovers into points as being the difference in the game. He also credited Terance Mann as just being a fantastic player.
- Coach Hamilton noted that the “go to guy on this team is the guy with the highest percentage shot,” and that’s what he prefers (as opposed to one go-to player that a defense can scheme around). He praised the team’s unselfishness and willingness to play their role, though he did note the defensive rebounding issues continue to bother him.
The back half of the two-game home stand comes Saturday afternoon when the Seminoles will take on the Miami Hurricanes. FSU will be looking to avenge an 80-74 loss in Coral Gables three weeks ago.