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Florida State pulls away from Pittsburgh for a needed home win

It wasn’t pretty, but at this point in the season all wins are good wins.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Playing their penultimate home game of the season, Florida State used a late run to win a must-win game. It won’t be used as film for a basketball clinic, but no one got hurt and the Garnet and Gold picked up the W. All’s well that ends well.

Above the Rim:

  • Terance Mann and Braian Angola didn’t play in the first half, after what Coach Hamilton called a “minor indiscretion.” This resulted in the first starts of the season for PJ Savoy and M.J. Walker, both of whom responded with nice performances.
  • Pitt was absolutely unconscious from three in the first half. Florida State had some late (or non-existent) rotations early in the game—in large part due to missing two of their better perimeter defenders—and this allowed Pitt to find some confidence early. And a team that believes in itself is a dangerous team. Coming into the game ranked 291st in three-point FG percentage, Pitt made 10-17 from beyond the arc during the first half.
  • Continuing a trend from the second half of the Clemson game, FSU was very aggressive to the basket for most of this game. Not only did this help the Seminoles shoot 55% from the field, it also caused Pittsburgh to get into major foul trouble. This was critical in allowing FSU to pull away late in the game.
  • Once again FSU turned the ball over far too much in the first half. At the 10 minute mark, The Seminoles were committing a turnover on 31% of their possessions. That simply can’t happen, especially against a team that isn’t all that effective at creating turnovers. Florida State reduced their turnover rate to 5.7% in the second half and not surprisingly FSU scored 1.42 points per possession after the break.
  • The second half was a free throw shooting contest. The two teams combined for 37 FTs after halftime and 52 fouls in the game. If that sounds bad, it was even worse to watch.

Court Level:

  • PJ Savoy came out of the gate hot. Which was good considering Pitt’s first half shooting and the absence of Mann and Angola. His perimeter defensive, and really his defensive awareness in general, is still a work in progress—which is something the junior admits. But if he were still injured, FSU very well might have lost this game. His 5 threes were the most he’s ever made against an ACC opponent and his 30 minutes were the most of his career. Good to have you back, PJ.
  • Mfiondu Kabengele, as has often been the case, played 18 highly effective minutes. Easily the best offensive rebounder on the team (on pace for the best offensive rebounding season at FSU in the Ham era), the redshirt-freshman grabbed 3 more against Pitt. Even better, Kabengele shot 9-11 from the charity stripe, giving him 13 points on just 3 shots. His defense is improving seemingly every week and his energy is contagious to the whole team. The sky is the limit for this guy.
  • Down the stretch of a close game, Phil Cofer came up big once again. Starting at the 6:16 mark with the game tied at 65, Cofer scored 12 of FSU’s final 23 points—including an offensive rebound put-back to give the ‘Noles a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Scoreless in the first half, the senior finished with 14 points and 6 boards. I can’t imagine where the Seminoles would be without a healthy Phil Cofer this year, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be anywhere near the NCAA Tournament.
  • As mentioned above, Braian Angola didn’t play in the first half, and when he did finally get on the court he looked out of sorts. Limited to just 5 minutes overall, Angola took two threes and missed badly on both. His defense was a big part of FSU’s comeback against Clemson on Wednesday, and his effort is rarely questioned. But the Seminoles sorely need him to bust out of his shooting slump before March rolls around. The senior is just 1-17 from three over the last 4 games.
  • M.J. Walker had a quiet but steady game, which is fantastic news for a true freshman. Playing 29 minutes—his second most in his career—Walker scored an efficient 14 points on 3-6 shooting, bolstered by a 7-8 performance from the free throw line. Continuing to display a developing all-around game, Walker added 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals, all of which led to him being the KenPom MVP of the game for the second time this season.

Post Game:

Pitt coach Kevin Stallings:

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton:

Mfiondu Kabengele:

M.J. Walker:

PJ Savoy:

Looking Ahead:

Florida State now has a rare week off in conference play. The Seminoles will head to Raleigh this coming weekend for a Sunday matchup against a surging NC State squad. A win will guarantee FSU at least a .500 record in the ACC.