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FSU basketball tops Louisville for fourth straight contest

Complete team effort leads to dominant road win.

Scott Utterback/Courier Journal

Florida State (8-2, 4-1) basketball defeated the Louisville Cardinals (9-3, 4-2) for the fourth straight time with a 78-65 road win Monday night. It was a wire-to-wire, complete team effort for the Seminoles, who are starting to hit their stride in ACC play. For the third straight game, FSU shot lights out from deep, while also exhibiting defensive length. Florida State’s depth was a major factor on the night, as Leonard Hamilton’s guys had 22 more bench points than the Cardinals.

FSU got some positive and negative injury news before the game. The Seminoles were without a starter for a second straight game, as Anthony Polite missed his first game of the season with a left shoulder injury. On the flip side, the Seminoles got freshman Scottie Barnes back as he came off the bench.

Balsa Koprivica got the Seminoles started with a dunk just over a minute into the game. The Seminoles started hot from deep, as Rayquan Evans and Wyatt Wilkes (making his first start of the season) both drained corner threes. A RaiQuan Gray and-1 opened up an early seven-point lead for the ‘Noles.

Chris Mack was forced to call a timeout just five minutes into the game after Wilkes’ second three opened up a 14-4 Florida State lead. In his first two minutes back from a one-game absence, Barnes made an impact on both ends, with two steals and a triple. Evans’ second three opened up a 13-point lead at the second media timeout.

The defensive length was on display early for Florida State. Just eight minutes in, the Seminoles had already blocked three Louisville shots and stole 4 possessions from the Cardinals:

The hot three-point shooting continued for Florida State off the bench. Barnes drained another before Sardaar Calhoun swished his only perimeter attempt. The ‘Noles were a scorching hot 7-11 from deep just over 13 minutes into the game, while the Cardinals were just 1-4. The vast difference led to a 32-13 Seminole lead at the U-8 media timeout.

The Seminoles stretched their lead all the way to 24 with 4:38 left before intermission, but a 12-2 Cardinal run late in the half got the home side back into it. All 12 came in the paint. Florida State entered the half with a 14-point lead. FSU shot 53% from the floor and were 8-15 from three. UL shot 41%, but made just two of eight three-pointers. Florida State had five blocks and five steals, while the Cardinals didn’t register in either category.

Evans led the way with nine points. Florida State showed off its scoring depth, as the Seminoles posted 42 points even without their leading scorer, M.J. Walker, cracking the scoreboard. However, Walker posted five assists. Gray, who’s arguably been FSU’s MVP thus far, also contributed seven points and four boards.

Walker quickly cracked the scoreboard in the second half, as he drove to his right for an easy layup on FSU’s first possession. Gray had a hot start to the half, as well, with a hard-driving and-one, followed by a pull-up jumper late in the shot clock. On the other side, Carlik Jones had a hot start, cashing in on his first three shots, as the Cardinals cut the deficit to 11 at the first media timeout.

Wilkes continued his hot shooting night, as he drained the Seminoles’ first triple of the half. Wilkes came up with another big play off a Walker miss, as he put back an offensive board for a new season-high of 13 points. The second-chance points gave the Seminoles a 57-44 lead with 11:41 remaining.

However, Louisville quickly cut into that lead again. The Cardinals went on a quick 9-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits. Jae’Lyn Withers put the exclamation point on the run with a thunderous slam over Koprivica off an inbounds pass.

But Koprivica responded in a big way. On the ensuing possession, he got a dunk of his own. A minute later, Koprivica stepped into the passing line for a steal, ran the court and slammed down a miss of his own:

The center then assisted on FSU’s next two possessions. The play of the sophomore led to an 8-0 Seminole run, as the visitors extended their lead back to 16 with 8:25 remaining.

The highlight plays continued for FSU shortly after the Koprivica slams. Malik Osborne dunked on the whole city of Louisville, as he extended his right arm for a mammoth slam to send FSU into the U-8 media timeout with a 17-point lead:

Osborne’s dunk, reminiscent of Trent Forrest’s dunk over Jordan Nwora, was the exclamation point on another dominant Florida State win. The win was FSU’s fourth straight over the Cardinals and the third straight in the KFC Yum! Center. The last three wins have all been by double digits.

Florida State finished the night shooting 50% from the floor, while going 9-21 (43%) from deep. FSU also had 5 blocks and 8 steals. The Seminoles had 19 assists on 31 makes. FSU’s bench outscored Mack’s bench 29-7. Florida State had four scorers in double digits.

Gray led the way with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Walker had a quiet night scoring, but set a career high with 10 assists (doubling his previous high). Osborne also contributed 12 points and 3 rebounds. Wilkes was 3-5 from three-point range, setting that aforementioned season-high of 13.

Florida State’s next game will be against Clemson in the Tucker Center on Saturday at 3:00 PM.