The Florida State Seminoles traveled to Wake Forest for their 17th game of the season, meaning for the first time in his career Baba Miller was allowed to step onto the court. Unfortunately, the result was the same as every other time the Seminoles played outside the Tucker Center this season, with FSU falling 90-75. This drops Florida State’s record to 5-12 and 3-3 in ACC play. Wake Forest improved to 12-5, 4-2 in league play, and 9-0 at home.
If you like ball movement and shot making, the opening four minutes were for you. Both squads were able to get essentially any look they wanted, with FSU peppering the Demon Deacons with baskets in the paint and Wake using excellent perimeter passing to nail their first three long range attempts. When the dust settled, it was 12-12 when the teams headed to the bench for some water at the first media timeout.
Freshman Baba Miller was the first player to sub-in for FSU just before the 16-minute mark, but it was fellow freshman Chandler Jackson who dribbled into an easy mid-range jumper out of the timeout to give Florida State a 14-12 lead. Darin Green, Jr. followed that up with a three from Greensboro and Steve Forbes quickly called a timeout to try and stem the 7-0 run.
Despite the timeout, FSU had several chances to extend their lead out to a comfortable margin, but suddenly the shots weren’t falling. Green, Jr. and Tom House each missed several open looks from deep, and while the ‘Noles forced a flurry of Wake Forest turnovers, they weren’t able to finish many of their transition looks. Matthew Cleveland missed a soft layup attempt and then an aggressive dunk attempt on back-to-back possessions, and though he was fouled on the dunk attempt he missed both freebies. Add in a Caleb Mills charge, a House flop, and a Miller air ball and the Seminoles gave away a golden opportunity.
At the other end of the court, Florida State wasn’t playing poorly. Playing with perhaps the most depth they’ve had on the season, there was a noticeable uptick in energy and extension of defensive pressure. Balls were being deflected, shots were being altered, and if you squinted hard enough you could almost see a resemblance to a Leonard Hamilton defense.
Unfortunately, the lack of ability to make shots allowed Wake Forest to consistently avoid having to play against a set defense and the Deacs were able to hang around despite FSU being the team dictating the game’s tempo and flow. FSU led 19-13 at the 11:50 mark after a nice put-back by Cleveland, but it dwindled to just 21-20 by 8:52 mark when Andrew Carr got a layup after a Florida State turnover.
Coming out of the under-eight timeout it was all squared at 23, when Wake ran off a quick 5-0 run, including a three after another missed shot at the tin by Cleveland led to an open look. A second-chance layup by Miller, the first points of his career, briefly cut the Wake lead down to three at 28-25, but from there the Deacons took control of the game. Florida State continued to miss shots and turn the ball over while the home team continued its scorching shooting from three. They were led by Damari Monsanto who shockingly was not forced to sit on the bench after picking up two fouls in the first 8 minutes. Clearly joyous over this clear oversight, the junior sharp shooter went 4-4 from deep in the first half to pace Wake Forest with 13 points.
When the horn sounded on the first half, Florida State found themselves trailing 44-35. The Seminoles scored 17 points in the first 5:20 of the game and then only 18 points in the final 14:40 of the stanza. After making their first two 3-balls, FSU proceeded to miss their next 8 and finished the half shooting just 20% from deep while turning it over 19.4% of their possessions. Caleb Mills, one of FSU’s most dynamic scorers, only played 4 minutes before stepping into two-foul jail.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest shot 57% from the field (16-28) including a scintillating 9-16 from deep, many of which were wide open shots from the corner—the best shot in basketball besides a dunk— after over-aggressive defenders were caught out of position. When the ball goes in the hoop the game is pretty easy and this torrid display of shooting allowed the Deacons to build a comfortable margin despite turning the ball over on over 21% of their possessions.
The second half began with Wake picking up where they left off, moving the ball faster than FSU defenders could follow and drilling wide open jumpers. And while FSU finally broke its three-point drought, Seminoles’ deficit actually grew to 13 by the first media timeout, 58-45.
Mills drilled his second three of the game to get FSU within 10, but Monsanto pushed it right back to 13 moments later with his 5th made three in 5 attempts. Oh and for those keeping track at home, both Mills and Monsanto still had just two fouls. After a pair of free throws and then a live-ball turnover from Cleveland, Monsanto drilled his 6th three and the Demon Deacon lead ballooned to 65-48 with almost 13 minutes left.
Mills and Cleveland made back-to-back threes to cut the lead to 65-54, but Wake just kept on making buckets. And even worse, now in addition to making jumpers Wake was also getting to the free throw line with alarming frequency, going 11-12 from the stripe in the first 11 minutes of the second half. And when you can’t get stops, it’s mighty hard to trim down a lead.
The rest of the game featured Mills making shots, Wake Forest getting a little bit sloppy, and Randolph Childress talking a whole lot about Demon Deacon players and games past and present, but mostly past. Credit FSU for not showing any quit, but it’s hard to take much away from garbage time minutes when the outcome of the game is well in hand.
Take Aways and Up-Next:
Cleveland continued his double-double streak with 19 points and 12 rebounds. He’s the first FSU player to record 6 straight double-doubles since Greg Grady did it in the 70s. Mills joined Cleveland with 19 points on just 9 shot attempts, pouring in 16 of the 19 in the second half after only playing 4 minutes in the opening 20 minutes due to Hamilton’s steadfast commitment to sitting guys with two fouls.
After a poor shooting first half, Florida State ended up making 53.7% from the field and 38% from three (Mills’ second half was a big part of that. But turning the ball over on 29% of their second half possessions doomed any chance at a comeback, even if the Deacons weren’t scorching the nets on the other end.
Baba Miller’s first game in a Seminoles’ uniform resulted in 4 points, 4 rebounds, and a block in 17 minutes of action. Those numbers will surely improve over the next 6 weeks.
Jalen Warley played another strong game running FSU’s offense, piling up 7 assists to just 1 turnover.
The Seminoles now return home for some Saturday afternoon action against the Virginia Cavaliers. This is a rematch of a tightly contested ballgame in Charlottesville back in early December and FSU will be looking for revenge in the Tucker Center.