In a game billed as one of the most important ACC matchups of the season, No. 16 Florida State blew past No. 7 Virginia 81-60. 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. FSU impressively led 45-25 at halftime.
After the win, Florida State junior forward RaiQuan Gray as well as Walker joined the media for post-game comments.
RaiQuan Gray’s comments:
On handling Virginia’s defense: “Our coaches, like I said before, they do a great job of game planning with us. Coach Jones talked to me earlier in shootaround saying they will probably come double. That’s just what they do. I am confident in my teammates to make the right cuts and the right reads, and I’ll be able to find them. They did a great job of getting open, Balsa under the basket one time, I think Ray was on the weak side and I got it to him. Coach Jones put that in my mind earlier saying they are going to come whenever I catch it either in the mid post or the low post. So my teammates did a great job of finding open spots and I found them for shots.”
On the Seminoles’ strong defense versus UVA: “We’re locked in on the game plan. I think we can guard anybody in the country. I think we can play with anybody in the country, as long as we are locked in and focused. Focus on our opponent and the game plan and executing. As long as we go out there and execute the game plan, I think we can guard anybody and play with anybody in the country.”
On his own development: “My coaches do a great job of putting me in positions to make plays. They just know my strengths and weaknesses. So, they put me in a great position to make plays. Also they give me opportunities and the freedom to make plays. My teammates also do a great job of finding me in certain situations. And just watching film, my coaches do a great job of sending me clips showing how I can improve off the ball and keep moving. Not be so stagnant. Just those two things, my coaches and watching film, honestly.”
On Calhoun’s big three to halt Virginia’s second half run: “It was a huge shot. If he would’ve missed that shot you never know. He stepped up and made that shot, we needed it. Obviously, you know, they were making a run. I think that shot kind of took the energy out of Virginia. Spend so much time trying to fight back and fight back. Once that shot kind of fell in, that kind of broke them a little bit. That was a huge shot for us.”
On playing Virginia well: “It goes back to our coaches; they do a great job of game plan. They have been playing these guys for years. It’s a new team every year, but we have the same coaching staff, and they do a great job of game planning and putting us in a position to go out and execute so that we can play at our highest potential. It is all on our coaching and I credit them for this win, scouting and game planning for these guys, they are a great team obviously. Our coaches prepared us the right way and we came out on top.”
On Balsa Koprivica and his performance: “He stepped up when we needed him. He is coming back off his injury. He didn’t play Saturday. But we needed him. He stepped up big and made those plays. He is capable of those plays all the time. I have said before that he is a super skilled guy. He can handle the ball and make plays also. He kind of displayed that tonight. Obviously on the defensive end he is versatile. He can switch and guard anybody and switch. He did that tonight, blocking that shot and also going down and scoring some big baskets when we needed him. He is definitely coming around and he is gonna keep improving through the season.”
M.J. Walker’s comments:
On first half defensively: “I thought we were pretty locked in. I think we brought a lot of energy in the first half, ball pressure. Wanted to start the game off the right way. We were pretty locked into the game plan. We did a good job listening to coach, studying film. Watching their film. I thought we did a good job. First half we set the tone.”
On having passers like Barnes and Gray on the floor: “Those guys are gifted. Obviously, trapping guys like that, for them to see the floor the way they do it opens up a lot of opportunities for our offense. For other players to get wide open shots. Our team we have a lot of good standing shooters when they are wide open. So as talented as they are, for them to see over the defense and make those plays shows that they are unselfish. They have the ability to do that out on the floor and that definitely helped us tonight.”
On his hot shooting night and the strain that puts on the opposing defense: “They gotta respect it, they gotta be able to close out on the shot, and respect the drive because we got a lot of drivers and a lot of guys who can make open jump shots. It kind of put them in the middle, should they contest or are they going to have to do both? Guard the drive and the shot. For us to knock down shots, it definitely opens up more opportunities for us to drive the ball. When we shoot the ball like how we did tonight, I think it just breathes energy to the rest of the team and opens up more driving lanes to get wide open shots or get to the rim.”
On FSU’s recent success versus Virginia: “Speaking for me, I just take it game by game. I don’t really look at it like we’re playing Virginia. Obviously, I know that they are a good program and they have won a national championship, things like that. I just take it game by game and try to be as locked in for every game that we have. What we are doing is working, but we just take it game by game, I think tonight we just played well.”
On what they need to work on to get even better: “We have the potential on our team to play like this every night. It is more mental than it is physical. We have to be able to bring that juice like we did, start setting the tone for the game, bringing that energy early, so that we can set the tone for the game. It will just help us for the rest of the season. In the first half, I think sometime we try to wait and see who is going to get themselves going first, or feel ourselves out instead of just taking that first punch. Having that Mike Tyson mentality. I think that is the biggest thing for us. Mentally, the approach every game. Almost like its war, you know. Just the mental part of it and being ready, and understanding we are going into a dogfight every game.”