- A great thing about a veteran team is that Leonard Hamilton can really mix up the defensive game plans, even in a case like Murray State where the Seminoles essentially had one practice in which to prepare. Would FSU mirror the Virginia plan, with someone face guarding Ja Morant like the ‘Noles did to Kyle Guy? Would Florida State dip into the wayback machine and pull out the Dennis Smith defense? A few seconds after tip, it became clear that FSU was doing neither. After watching film the Seminoles staff decided that they couldn’t stop Morant, and so they were going to do what no other team has done this season. They were going to put their guys on an island, and let them defend Morant one-on-one, with the help defenders focusing on shutting down the other four Racers. It didn’t look like a great decision when Morant buried four quick 3-pointers and the Racers took a 14-7 lead. But from that point forward, it was a rout. Morant averages 10 assists per game, which leads the nation by a mile, and he had 16 in their first round win over Marquette. But against FSU he had four. It was just the 2nd time this season that he’s had less than five.
- With Phil Cofer unavailable so far in the tournament, Raiquan Gray has gotten his 2nd and 3rd starts of the year. Against Murray State the big point forward was as disruptive on defense as we’ve seen a freshman be this season. He finished the game with five steals, which matched the season high for any Seminole. No FSU player has had more since Aaron Thomas picked up six in 2014. Gray has now gotten a steal on 3.7% of opponent possessions when he’s on the floor, which is the highest by a ‘Nole since Trent Forrest in his freshman season.
- Terance Mann didn’t lead FSU in scoring, but he was the most dominant player on the court. He had 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, and his length on defense gave Morant fits. After the game, a reporter asked him how personal the game was.
This is what being a teammate is about. What an amazing answer. pic.twitter.com/fUiu6QOpmj— Chris Spatola (@Chris_Spatola) March 24, 2019
4. The Racers entered the game with the 5th best 2-pt% in the nation. But FSU was dominant on the interior, blocking six shots. FSU held them to 30% on 2s, and their previous low in the past two years was 35%. Mfiondu Kabengele has three blocks for the fourth time in six games.
5. FSU won 90-62 in a 72 possession game. Florida State’s 1.26 points per possession were the 2nd most versus Murray State this year. The Racers 0.87 points per possession was their worst game of the year. The 28-point margin of victory was the 2nd largest in FSU’s NCAA Tournament history. The win propelled them to the 6th Sweet-16 in program history, and it is the 2nd time that they’ve gone to the Sweet-16 in back-to-back seasons. It was the 29th win of the season, which extends a program record.