In a game billed as one of the most important ACC matchups of the season, Florida State blew past No. 7 Virginia 81-60. FSU impressively jumped out ahead 45-25 at halftime.
Senior guard M.J. Walker was money from downtown, shooting 5-of-6 from three for the evening. He led the Noles with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
After the win, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton joined the media for post-game comments.
Opening statement: “I am very pleased with the overall effort of our team tonight. I thought we played with a tremendous amount of energy on the offensive end and the defensive end. We moved the ball; we made the extra pass. We created offense for our ball movement and our ball reversal. I thought that distorted a little bit of their pack line. They are an excellent defensive team, we knew that if we didn’t move the ball with some aggressiveness and move our bodies with some aggressiveness, they would lock us up and bog us down.”
“But I thought our energy on the defensive end was as good as it has been all year. And our energy on the offensive end matched the effort on the defensive end. And we got a tremendous amount of energy from everyone that came into the game. That allowed us to play at a very, very high level for the entire game. Once again, the quality of our depth I thought was a plus for us tonight.”
On what went right tonight: “We were sound fundamentally. We did it with a lot of aggressiveness. Sometimes we have a tendency to just move at the pace that the offense moves. Tonight, I thought we played with a lot of energy. We got to our spots. They had to work for the shots that they got. They shot 43 percent from the floor, that’s not bad. We didn’t shut them down, we just made them work for every shot that they got.”
On Virginia: “You don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing what you are going to stop when you play a team as good as Virginia. They are a tremendous three-point shooting team, they shot 45 percent. They shoot 50 percent from twos, 40 percent from threes, and 80 percent from the free throw line. They are one of the top teams in America in those areas. If we are not on-point defensively from twos and threes, or you put them on the line, they are gonna kill you there. So this is a complete team. We didn’t have the luxury of overemphasizing post-touches, perimeter shots. We have to defend their entire system. The respect that we have for Virginia, and their outstanding coach who is one of the best in the country. What they have done in the ACC over the last 5 years, they have won more games than anybody.”
“The moment put us in a mindset that we had to be at our very, very best. So my concern is, at this point, how do we maintain that same level of focus every game? We have to find the mindset where we don’t have to be playing on big Monday, against the number one team in the league, to put us in the frame of mind to play at our very best. We have to find a way to come out and play with this level of focus every night. We have a five game stretch where I thought we did that. We had a couple game stretch where I thought we took a step back. Now our challenge is to see how close we can come to maintaining this and beyond. I still think we are capable of playing better than we played tonight. This team has potential that we haven’t tapped into.”
On Balsa Koprivica’s game: “He hasn’t practiced in two days. He got hurt the morning of the Wake Forest game. That just shows our trainer, Amanda Robinson, did an unbelievable job of getting him ready. I thought that he was eager to play. I thought he played with a purpose. The big block that he made there in the second half I thought sent a message. He was confident. He wanted to contribute. Just having him, with his good hands and his ability to finish around the basket, is part of who we are. I am glad to see him back now.”
On Koprivica hitting long jumpers and sideline reaction: “We have periods in practice where all of our big guys shoot jump shots. Knowing that is part of the overall development schemes in our coaching staff. He has been really shooting the ball better and better. They back off of him they weren’t expecting him to do that. We had a couple things we had kind of hoped, we had one offensive system that we step our big guys out onto the corners to take their big guys away from the basket, and we’re confident that those guys can knock those shots down. But he has been shooting the jump start in practice we just haven’t utilized it in games yet.”
On the value of having passers like Barnes and Gray: “There’s no doubt, that is a tremendous advantage, two guys who can really dribble and handle and pass the ball. That takes away a lot of pressure when you have that many ball handlers on the floor. Someone asked me about our recruiting scheme, that is why we bring in guys that fit the way we want to play. That just give us I think four guys on the floor at the time that can handle the ball, sometimes five. That’s one of the reasons why we only had five turnovers tonight. Virginia is a outstanding half court defensive team. But tonight there was some full court pressure that our guys handled very well.”
“But once again I just want to emphasize this- I thought the respect that we have for Virginia, and the outstanding job that their coach has done and their team has done… They have really set the standard that everyone else in the ACC is being judged by. So it was important that we play well against them and give ourselves a chance to win. And it gives our kids some confidence that now we might not be exactly where those guys are, but at least we’re in the conversation.”
On the tribute to legendary Georgetown head coach John Thompson: “All the coaches around the country are bought into showing our respect for big John. He played a very important role in my life. He was a mentor of mine. I leaned on him anytime I got into a situation where I needed years of experience. He probably kept me from making some mistakes by letting me benefit from the wisdom that he had gained through his experience. So, I wear this with a lot of pride. He was very instrumental in helping me get the Oklahoma State job. He is probably the reason why I took the Miami job…Big John, no one is any more appreciative of the legacy he left or the mentorship of him than Leonard Hamilton, I promise you that.”