The Louisville Cardinals came into their opening game of the ACC Tournament desperate for a win and knowing that their NCAA Tourney hopes hung in the balance. The Florida State Seminoles, on the other hand, entered the contest comfortably on the right side of the bubble. And each team’s status was clear as play began in Brooklyn.
While there was little intrigue throughout much of the 82-74 UL victory that wound up way closer than it was for most of the game, it was interesting to see C.J. Walker return to the starting point-guard role for FSU. Trent Forest is a better defender, and his size seems more suited to handle the length of Louisville. But Walker go the nod, and was part of a Florida State defensive effort — or lack thereof — that saw the Cards hit 4 of their first 5 shots on rather easy looks.
FSU hung around and even claimed a 17-14 lead, but then fell apart. Offensively, Walker was an apt microcosm for the Seminoles’ approach against the Louisville zone: his first three shots looked more like volleyball sets, as he basically threw the ball up for the nearest defender to spike. It was actually quite the block party for both teams, as UL swatted 10 shots to FSU’s 11.
Instead of finding mid-range seams in the Cardinals’ zone from whence to turn and face (the Seminoles’ first-half passing was atrocious), FSU’s offense consistently opted for the three or drove all the way to the hoop. And when the refs are letting things go on the inside, like they were today, this can be a tough approach, one that played into a 19-point halftime deficit for the ’Noles on 26.7% shooting.
When the Seminoles did get the whistles, they failed to take advantage of their chances from the charity stripe, making just 4-10 free throws in the first half to help dig their hole and 12-21 all game. That 57% clip actually topped Louisville’s 53% total from the line, but the Cards crushed from downtown, keeping pace with every other Florida State opponent of late; UL made 63% (10-16) from deep.
FSU’s more equal distribution of minutes began paying dividends in the second half, as the Seminoles were able to speed Louisville up and foster the chaotic pace that the ’Noles prefer. And just as the three-ball helped the Cardinals extend to a 26-point advantage with 11:35 remaining, so did it help bring Florida State back thereafter. P.J. Savoy sank four triples, while Phil Cofer drilled three, and FSU wound up hitting on 8-20 (40%).
But, ultimately, the furious comeback fell short. What remains to be seen now is if the Seminoles’ postseason resume will do the same, or if FSU’s ticket had already been punched.
There are plenty of other games that will affect Florida State’s postseason fate, and we’ve broken down just whom you should be rooting for right here.