No. 11 Florida State cruised past Miami 88-71 on the road Wednesday night. The win makes it seven straight for FSU over their rival.
Junior forward RaiQuan Gray was impressive once again, scoring 12 points to go along with 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. Freshman guard Scottie Barnes had a career-high 8 assists off the bench. Junior guard Sardaar Calhoun added a career-high 16 points off the bench, hitting 7-of-9 from the field for the Seminoles (14-3, 10-2 ACC).
After the win, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton, Gray, and Calhoun spoke with the media for post-game comments.
Leonard Hamilton’s comments:
Opening statement: “Obviously, this was a very important game for us as we close the season out. Down the stretch, road games are very important. I thought the first half, I liked what I saw, we had a lot of deflections, we created some offense with our defense. I thought the second half we let up a little bit, we weren’t quite as functional as we had been in the first half. I thought Miami showed how they have been successful against a lot of people in the ACC. Even though they were undermanned and had so many guys hurt, they were playing like the game meant something to them. We had a hard time guarding Wong, he is an unbelievable one-on-one player. When he wasn’t putting it in, he was getting to the foul line. That was a challenge for us, but that is what he has done all year long. Overall, I am pleased that we got on the road and got the victory. First half I thought we played very well. I am not real sure Miami didn’t outplay us in the second half.”
On the production from FSU off the bench: “We win by committee. The strength of our team is in the quality of our depth. We were without two of our top seven players and our leading scorer and the other guys stepped up and filled in the role. That is who we are and who we have been over the last number of years. The strength of our team is in our culture. The fact that our guys play unselfish and they share playing time, they share the ball. I thought that was evident tonight in our execution especially in the first half.”
On Calhoun’s big night: “Sardaar has had to make a lot of adjustments. Whenever you come from a junior college where you are a JUCO All-American, and the best player on the team, you get accustomed to playing a certain way. Now you go to college, you get a step up to the ACC, and you have other good players around you, it’s been an adjustment. The offensive system, the defensive system, the out of bounds plays, the special situations. All those things come into play, so sometimes mentally, you could just be out there thinking more than just playing on instincts. Now late into the season, he is playing instinctively. He is attacking closeouts, he is shooting the ball confidently, he is talking on defense, he is being solid now that he understands our defensive principles better. I told somebody that I expect him to have games where he just explodes because he is confident, and he is not thinking nearly as much. He is reacting as opposed to being a thinking player.”
On several members of the team being from the south Florida area: “This was a business trip for us. We want to approach it that way. We want to treat this game just like we did all the other games.”
On Florida State leading the ACC: “We really haven’t done anything yet on paper. We are the leader, but if we don’t take care of business, that could change. We are trying to deal with things very matter-of-fact. What we are trying to do is just stay focused on the things that are important. Obviously, we are in a pretty good position, but in order for us to be in the right position when the season ends, we have to take it one game at a time. Tonight was another step closer to taking advantage of this opportunity that we have in front of us.”
On M.J. Walker’s status: “We thought he might need a little rest. Turned his ankle and is dealing with some tendinitis. He fell on his knee, turned his ankle in the Wake Forest game. This time of year, when you see where we are, if its best for a kid to take a step back for a game or a couple days and get off it, hopefully be strong enough to finish the remainder of the season, we take advantage of it.”
RaiQuan Gray’s comments:
On Calhoun’s performance: “Like you said, everybody doesn’t have a Sardaar. He is full of energy. He brings defense, he brings immediate scoring. That’s kind of our motto here, we are 18, 19 strong. When one man goes down, another man steps up, and that’s what he did here tonight. Each night our team is capable of having a different leading scorer, that’s a strength of our team. I think he did a great job of playing his game, playing defense, bringing energy, and making shots when we needed him too. I definitely am happy for him, and he is definitely getting better throughout the season, and he has more to show.
On Calhoun’s improvement on the defensive end: “A lot better, honestly. When he first came in, it was kind of a blur for him coming out of JUCO. He didn’t really guard anybody or defend. So its new to him. He had to get adjusted to the speed. The intensity that we bring and the defense that we play every night. I said this before, late in the tournament, come tournament time, he is going to be a key factor for us. Just because of the energy he brings and scoring ability, not many guys come off the bench and immediately get hot like that in the first half like that. He is a key piece to our team and he is going to keep improving. I’m proud for him, and I’m happy for him.”
On having the right mindset versus Miami coming into the game as heavy favorites: “Our coaches do a great job of preparing us, they always keep us in the moment, not look ahead or look behind. We treat every game as if it is the national championship. We want to go out and perform the best and put on a great display. We want to carry ourselves with class and win with class. Our coaches do a great job of keeping us humble. Keep pushing us and critiquing on the things that matter. We don’t even look at the score. We approach each half as if its 0-0. They do a great job of preparing us and keeping our minds humble.”
Sardaar Calhoun’s comments:
On if his mindset was different going into the Miami game with M.J. Walker unavailable: “Play like I normally play. Defense first, crash the glass, pick up people 94 feet. With M.J. being out, we had to come as a unit, and be more together. He is like our leader at the head of the snake. He talked to me before the game and he said let the game come to myself, and he was just going to talk me through the game, which he did. I played good, and we got the W.”
On how comfortable he is within the system: “I am pretty comfortable. I think I have found my place within the team. I want to bring the defense first, because our first unit they may get tired, and I need to exhaust the point guards on the other team while they bring the ball up the court. Scoring is the last thing I look for, because you know, we have scorers, we have players who can do all that.”
On if defense was a struggle for him earlier in the season: “No sir, I am pretty gifted with my athleticism and my quickness and speed. Just the coaching the tools that they give us is outstanding, so when I step out onto the court, it is a lot easier.”
On what he has improved on the most during this season: “Probably transition speed. Making no look passes, not trying to be flashy, but just move the defense with my eyes. If the person on the strong side or the weak side is open, I can make that skip pass. Probably transition defense, when I am on my heels, and someone is moving at me so fast, I can turn my hips and cut them off still. I feel like those things I have improved. Rebounding, knowing where the ball is going to go. Being the first to jump on the floor. Those little areas.”
On the strength of Florida State’s bench: “Its big. We kind of bring that extra juice at practice, that second unit…I cherish coming off the bench and helping my brothers when they get tired. That second unit just comes in there and plays hard, and when you play hard, easy buckets happen.”