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Baseline Breakdown: Florida State suffocates Tennessee in near wire-to-wire win

The Junkyard is being protected.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

In this week to be thankful, Florida State fans can show gratitude to the Seminole defense. The season is still young, but the defense is performed at a supreme level Friday night in Niceville, choking the life out of a previously undefeated Tennessee team in a game that wasn’t as close as the 60-57 score indicated.

Above the Rim:

  • The ‘Noles came out dialed in, forcing Tennessee into a slew of early live-ball turnovers and jumping out to a 12-2 lead. This proved critical in a game that ended up being extremely physical, as Tennessee was forced to expend tons of energy trying to play catch-up. After the game, Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes said that FSU didn’t do anything they didn’t expect, they just executed at a higher level right from the tip. He credited Coach Hamilton with having his guys ready.
  • The game might have been played in the Florida Panhandle, but you wouldn’t know it from the crowd. Vol Nation showed up in a big way and were waiting with baited breath to explode into a frenzy. However, FSU countered every second half punch with one of their own and really kept the fans clad in Orange at bay.
  • Tennessee made 7 dunks or layups, mostly off turnovers or scrambled plays. The Vols only made 7 other shots from the field during the entire game. Hamilton played 10 guys at least 7 minutes, throwing waves of defenders at the Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden. The two combined to shoot 7-24 from the field. FSU’s defense is now ranked 4th in the country, allowing 86.2 points per 100 possessions.
  • Florida State came into the game as the 7th best free throw shooting team in the country. They did not perform that well against Tennessee. FSU shot 19-29 from the stripe and made just enough down the stretch to preserve the win. Hopefully it was just a one game blip.

Court Level:

  • Coach Stan Jones is doing work with Balsa Koprivica, Dominik Olejniczak, and Malik Osborne. A week or two ago I asked Big Dom why he chose to transfer to FSU. His answer was simple: Coach Jones develops the bigs better than anyone in the country. That’s been on full display over the first month of this season. Koprivica is developing into a plus-rebounder, attacks the rim with authority, and even bucked the game trend and went 4-4 from the stripe. Dom is executing his role as a screener, interior defender, and garbage disposal around the basket very well and is even displaying a growing ability to pass out of the post. His block rate is the highest of his career and his offensive rebound rate is more than double the next best of his career. And what can’t Osborne do? Against Tennessee he quietly went about his business, knocking down a three, grabbed three steals, and sealed the game with a huge offensive rebound.
  • Speaking of developing, Patrick Williams is probably not going to be in Tallahassee very long. His length swallows up passing lanes and his awareness is impressive for a guy his age. And his Haven’t seen too many like him in garnet and gold. He’s still having to do a bit more thinking than he’d probably like, and his stamina is not at a level it needs to be to survive the full ACC grind while maintaining his efficiency. But that will come as he continues to see his minutes creep up higher and higher.
  • Trent Forrest started off the game a bit out of control. Some credit goes to Tennessee’s very good transition defense, but it also appeared like he was trying to do a bit too much in front of the home town crowd. Six turnovers speaks for itself. But as has seemed to be the trend this year, Forrest settled down in the second and ran the offense as needed. On the defensive side of the ball, his (along with some elite plays by Anthony Polite) pressure on Turner was a big part of Tennessee’s struggles.
  • M.J. Walker played for the first time in three games and it showed. The junior couldn’t play for more than 3-4 minutes at a time and he appeared hesitant at first. But Walker came up with some YUGE shots in the second half to help keep the lead at a working margin and added a massive offensive rebound to boot. It’s good to see him back on the court and even better to see him step into some pressure shots with confidence.

Trivia Time!


FSU’s defense is currently ranked 4th in the nation. When is the last time the ‘Noles finished a season with a top 5 defense?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    (37 votes)
  • 9%
    (26 votes)
  • 24%
    (68 votes)
  • 43%
    (123 votes)
  • 7%
    (21 votes)
  • 2%
    (7 votes)
282 votes total Vote Now

The answer will be in the comments by 5pm eastern on Saturday.

Post Game:

Coach Hamilton and Devin Vassell field questions about FSU’s second win over a ranked SEC team this season.

Rick Barnes talks about his respect for Leonard Hamilton, FSU’s execution, his team’s grit, the ball being too hard, and his players needing to shoot more.