The Seminoles executed about as well as they have all season in the first half, but UVA demonstrated why they are a likely NCAA Tourney 1-seed in the second.
Above the Rim:
- Hot three point shooting out of the gates helped establish an early rhythm that favored FSU. Florida State used crisp passing to generate solid looks—which they cashed in on. This not only gave FSU a lead, it also opened up the interior, allowing FSU to score more points in the first half than any ACC opponent has against UVA this season.
- This was the best defense I’ve seen from FSU in league play, particularly in the first half. Guys had their hands up, they communicated well, they moved their feet (which helps prevent fouls), and they finished possessions with defensive rebounds. This clearly frustrated UVA early, causing the Cavaliers to rush shots and be indecisive with their movement. In fact, FSU held UVA to just .73 points per possession in the opening stanza—a brilliant effort against the number 2 team in the country. The second half wasn’t quite as strong, but the defense was still head and shoulders above where it was in games like Wake Forest or Syracuse. Unfortunately for FSU, Virginia made a number of tough, contested shots.
- Turnovers in the second half were costly. It’s true that this is what UVA does to teams—frustrate you into forcing the issue and making poor decisions. But some of FSU’s turnovers in the second half were just plain careless, with several resulting in easy run-outs by Virginia. You simply can’t do that if you want to beat a team of this caliber.
- This was the third straight game where FSU had awful second half 3 point-shooting. Much of that is UVA’s defense, however there were some open shots that were just flat out missed. After going 5-10 from three in the first half, Florida State was just 1-10 after halftime. If even just 1 or 2 of those missed shots go down, we could be celebrating an FSU win. I don’t know if it’s fatigue, less ball movement, or just plain bad luck, but FSU has to get it’s second half shooting woes figured out if they want to play meaningful basketball in March.
- Florida State was again balanced, with 6 players between 6 and 10 points. But unlike last year when the Seminoles defeated UVA in Charlottesville, there wasn’t a guy like Dwayne Bacon to hit big shots down the stretch. Being balanced is great because it doesn’t allow opponents to scheme to take away one or two players. It’s a big part of why FSU has a top 20 offense. But sometimes you need a guy to demand the ball and carry a team in a tight game and I’m not sure the Florida State has someone capable of that on this year’s roster—at least not at this point in their careers.
- Christ Koumadje has really developed over the last 12 months and it was all on display late in the first half on a beautiful ally oop. The junior ran the court like a deer, had proper spacing from the ball handler, looked for the ball, adjusted in mid-air to make the catch, and then finished at the rim. The big man is still recovering from an early season foot injury, but it seems pretty unlikely that this would be an NCAA Tourney team without his efforts.
- Mfiondu Kabengele only played 10 minutes, but wow were they effective. He had a nice offensive rebound put-back, rolled to the basket off a screen for a dunk, altered several shots on defense, and a sweet fall-away jumper on the baseline. It’s obvious he’s still learning how to play through the physicality of the American game, but the ceiling for the redshirt freshman is sky high. Six points and six rebounds, I would have liked to see him get a few more minutes in this game.
- CJ Walker was effective in the first half, hitting a big three, racking up 4 assists, and grabbing 3 rebounds. He was a big part of why FSU led by 10 at the half. But, just a sophomore, he’s still an inconsistent player and the second half was a different story. He lost several live ball turnovers, gifting UVA easy buckets on the other end, and ended up playing just 8 minutes after halftime. He was known for being an extremely hard worker and resilient guy in high school, so hopefully he bounces back with a strong game this weekend.
- M.J. Walker led FSU with 10 points and had another effective game overall. He was consistently able to get to and finish at the rim against the tough packline defense, which is a nice sign for the freshman’s developing game. He certainly has a lot of room for growth—I’m sure he wasn’t happy about his missed free throws down the stretch—but things look bright for the young guard.
- Terance Mann, FSU’s leading scorer, had only 3 points on just 1-4 shooting. Now, credit UVA who looked determined to take him out of the game. But even when Mann got to the rim he wasn’t able to finish through contact like he normally does. Basketball isn’t all about scoring and Terance played strong perimeter defense, but it’s tough to beat a top 3 team when your leading scorer is held to 3 points...in fact, it’s a testament to how many weapons this team has that it was only a four point loss.
Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett:
FSU Head Coach Leonard Hamilton:
Florida State heads up to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame began the season with high hopes, but national player of the year candidate Bonzie Colson has missed much of the season with a broken foot. The Irish had lost seven straight games before beating Boston College at home on Tuesday. Nonetheless, Notre Dame is still a top 45 team and their three ACC home losses have come by a total of 10 points. This is the only regular season meeting between FSU and Notre Dame this season.