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Basketball Observations: Florida State loses an ugly game to Wake Forest

FSU played one of their worst games of the season and blew a great chance to get a conference road win.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into Winston-Salem, FSU had been playing some of their best basketball of the season. That came to a screeching halt on Wednesday night as the Seminoles fell to a bad Wake Forest team 76-72.

Above the Rim:

  • Florida State did not look sharp from the opening tip. As well as the Seminoles played against Miami last Saturday, they looked equally as poor versus the Demon Deacons.
  • The defense wasn’t awful in the first half, but they did give up some easy looks at the basket. The Seminoles created a number of live ball turnovers, but couldn’t convert in transition when they did. More on that below. In the second half, Wake scored nearly at will. The Deacs were deadly from three, grabbed a a high percentage of offensive rebounds, consistently beat FSU off the dribble, and were bailed out by dumb foul after dumb foul by Seminole defenders. In all, a Wake Forest team on a 7 game losing streak scored 1.34 points per possession in the second half. That is simply unacceptable.
  • The Seminole offensive execution was terrible. Hot three point shooting and offensive rebounding allowed FSU to build a working lead in the first half, but that was fool’s gold. Sloppy passing, questionable decision making, and just plain poor shooting all played a part. But the biggest culprit, especially in the first half, was horrendous execution in transition. Despite snaring six steals in the first half, FSU only had four fast break points in the first 20 minutes. That inability to finish prevented FSU from building a 15+ point lead and would prove costly in the second half when FSU’s perimeter shots dried up.
  • This team lacks a killer instinct. They have proven to be resilient and do not quit when they get down. But time and time again they have opportunities to stomp on an opponents’ throat and they aren’t able. Some of it is youth. Some of it, in my opinion, is lacking a true “go-to” guy. And some of it looks like mental lapses and an inability to play with intensity for 40 minutes. Wake Forest came into the game 1-7 in ACC. If FSU goes up 16 or 20 points in the first half, the Demon Deacons just might have quit. Instead, FSU allows them to go into the locker room with momentum (cutting the lead from 10 to 6) and Wake came out in the second half believing they could win. And they were right.
  • FSU was 0-7 in the second half from three. If even one of them go down, it probably results in the Seminoles stealing a victory. It’s a game where it would have been nice to be able to toss PJ Savoy out there for 4 or 5 minutes to see if he was hot.
  • With nearly 19 seconds left, FSU had the ball down three. But instead of trying to score at the rim quickly and then fouling, the ‘Noles ran clock and took a 3 with a few seconds left. It actually was a pretty good look for M.J. Walker, but I’m not sure I agree with the decision. Wake Forest left quite a few points at the line down the stretch. I would have liked to see FSU try and extend the game a few more possessions.
  • This was a bad loss. It was a bad loss in the abstract sense and it was a bad loss on the NCAA Tournament resume. It’s the kind of loss that the committee can point to as a reason to leave a bubble team out. With a win, FSU might have totally eliminated itself from the bubble conversation. But with the loss, I expect FSU to sweat it out all the way until March.

Court Level:

  • Phil Cofer came out hot and kept FSU in the game. For much of the night, he looked like the only player in garnet and gold who understood the significance of the game. Unfortunately, all most will remember are the two free throws the senior missed with about 30 seconds to go that could have given FSU a one point lead. But the reality is, without Cofer FSU loses this game by double-digits. To put in perspective. Phil made more shots than Angola, CJ Walker, and M.J. Walker combined.
  • Braian Angola had zero points in first 38 minutes, including two missed bunnies after a steal. This was easily his worst game of the season. With the level of defense FSU is playing (worst in the ACC), the Seminoles simply can’t afford for one of its primary scorers to score 3 points on 1-8 shooting.
  • Trent Forrest played a nice game at point guard. He didn’t score a ton of points, but that’s not his role. He ran was under control, played the best defense on the team, dished out 5 assists, and grabbed 6 rebounds—three of them offensive. He even stepped up at the free throw line, going 3-4.
  • Most of the rest of the team was bad. These are college kids, so I don’t want to spend too much time calling folks out by name. However, this was just a collectively poor effort from almost anyone not named Phil Cofer or Trent Forrest. Ike Obiagu continues to give good effort, but he’s completely lost on offense—as most raw freshman are. M.J. Walker continues to flash greatness but, like most freshman, is extremely inconsistent and fouls jump shooters far too frequently. CJ Walker was ineffective most of the night. Terance Mann never found a rhythm and scored just two points after half. Mfiondu Kabengele played solid in spurts but committed 4 fouls in minutes. It doesn’t matter how big of a mistmatch he is if he can’t stay on the court. And I’ve already mentioned Angola’s struggles. If any one of those players brings their “A” game, FSU walks out of Joel Coliseum with a win. Instead, the team goes home with a well-earned loss and collectively must summon a much better effort on Saturday.

Looking Ahead:

Game two of the road trip sees FSU travel to Kentucky to take on the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday, February 3rd. The Cardinals defeated FSU 3 weeks ago in Tallahassee 73-69, after the Seminoles blew a 17 point lead.