No. 11 Florida State dropped their first game in 4 weeks Saturday afternoon against North Carolina, losing 78-70. FSU (14-4, 10-3 ACC) led 41-29 at halftime, but turned the ball over 12 times in the second half.
Junior RaiQuan Gray led the Noles in points and rebounds with 17 and 8, respectively. Freshman Scottie Barnes added 12 points, 7 rebounds, and a career-high 6 steals.
After the loss, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton and Barnes spoke with the media for post-game comments. UNC head coach Roy Williams shared his thoughts on FSU as well.
Leonard Hamilton’s comments:
Opening statement: “I want to give North Carolina a lot of credit. I thought that they obviously regrouped at halftime. They were a lot more patient on offense, they did a tremendous job of executing their offense. We got a lot of deflections and steals the first half that really gave us the opportunity to have that lead. I thought the second half they were a lot more patient. They just kept moving the ball. We had a hard time keeping them off the boards. Even when they missed shots, they had 20 offensive rebounds, and a lot of their points came from the fact that they were able…they were so big, strong, and physical inside that we had a hard time keeping them off the boards.”
More opening statement: “We had a stretch there in the first half where their pressure I thought took us out of rhythm. We had one stretch I believe we may have turned the ball over 8 or 9 times in 10 or 11 possessions. That was because of their pressure. Their ability to get some deflections, steals. They cut the lead down and it was very difficult for us to catch back up. You have to give them credit. They just did a good job with their physicality. I thought they executed their man-to-man offense. They refused to let us speed them up in the second half. They also hurt us on the boards. We had a hard time getting to the free throw line, we were trying to drive to force contact. We normally are a pretty good free throw shooting team, but we didn’t shoot our normal high percentage. They had been a poor free throw shooting team, and they shot 100 percent in the second half. Most of the time when that happens, they are locked in and a little more focused. You have to give them credit. They were at that magic level tonight.”
On what changed on the boards from the first game this season versus UNC: “I think they have grown. Kessler obviously wasn’t much of a factor there [in Tallahassee the first game] and he’s improved. He is very, very talented, one of the most talented players in the country. He is 7-1, 7-2, whatever he is. We had a hard time keeping him off the boards. His long arms and athleticism, and their physicality with their big strong thick bodies in there, they were a lot more physical than us. That gave him an opportunity to reach up and put those baskets in on those missed shots. We just didn’t have enough people in there boxing him out.”
On slow start to the second half offensively: “I just think that you have to give them credit. They did to us normally what we have been doing to other people. They had an excellent game plan defensively. They were extremely aggressive. They were so aggressive that I thought that created indecision on our part. Sometimes you just gotta give teams credit, its not so much about what you didn’t do, its about what they did. Today we got outplayed by a team that really executed their gameplan a lot better than we executed our gameplan. We didn’t take care of the ball like we normally do. We didn’t hit our free throws and we normally do. North Carolina is a really really good basketball team and they have been playing really good as of late with the exception of the Marquette game. I thought that motivated them in the second half to want to come back out and redeem themselves.”
On the second half: “They did a very good job of taking certain things away from us. We didn’t get our ball screens, our rolls. They blew up some screens, they were just really, really good defensively today. We weren’t quite as sharp on our game defensively. We had three guys that played that hadn’t practiced at all, basically. We didn’t know they were going to play at all until today. M.J. didn’t practice all week, neither did Malik. And neither did Tanor. Those guys have been out the past 5 or 6 days, and we were not quite as sharp as they normally have been. Those things happen. You don’t use that as an excuse, that’s just the nature of the game of basketball. Sometimes you get a spell where you have those little injuries that throw you a little bit out of rhythm. You can’t say that today- North Carolina was the reason we were out of rhythm today. They just did a much better job of being North Carolina today than we did of being FSU.”
On the challenge of the current injuries to players on FSU’s roster: “That’s basically the truth. I am not making an excuse on that. Malik hadn’t done anything since he turned his ankle in the prior games. Tanor, we had no idea if he was going to be able to do anything today. None of those guys practiced. I think M.J. might have done some stuff this morning just to see how he felt. Same thing with Malik. He kind of up and down the sideline just to make sure that he wouldn’t be bothered by the injury. So we went into the game that was basically the way it went. We did the best we could against a real good team on the road, and came up short. We just gotta now go back and regroup and get ready for senior night.”
On UNC’s Kessler: “Well, he is exceptionally long and athletic. He gives them a little bit kinda what Christ Koumadje gave us. He just is so long, unless you really do a great job of driving him out, his length and his ability to get off the ground quick hurts you. But tonight, they were driving in there, they missed those shots. You rotate over there to try and contest those shots, and if you don’t crack down on him, with his size and length, he just stands around there and tips them in. To his credit, they have done a good job with him. You can tell he has made a lot of progress moving froward. And he is going to be handful when he get a little stronger.”
Closing remarks: “We’ll get back and take a day off, and hopefully we will get those three guys back a few reps as we prepare for the next game, and hopefully we will be a little better in the coming week.”
Scottie Barnes’ comments:
On North Carolina’s run to start the second half: “I would just say coming out of halftime, they just came with more energy. They were being tougher. They just came with a lot of energy coming out of halftime. We just didn’t regroup off of it.”
On UNC’s 20 offensive rebounds: “We came into the game we knew what they were going to try and do. They were getting a lot of rebounds in the second half. It is energy-draining when a team gets a lot of offensive rebounds, so then you just gotta keep working and keep working and just fight to try and come back in game, its energy-draining.”
On the challenge of stopping runs from opposing teams: “I would say that is something that we probably gotta get better at. Letting a team go on a run. We just gotta do better at fighting through that run, getting stops, making it work on offense, making them just get tight on defense. That is something that we have to keep working on down the stretch. We are just learning, we live and we learn. We got more games to play, we are still getting better.”
On FSU’s offensive gameplan: “We knew in the gameplan that they were going to try and be at the line, denying some passes. We did a really good job getting to the rim. They could have probably missed some calls but it doesn’t matter. We just have to fight through it. We just needed to find ways to score by doing other things. We did a pretty good job I would say. We just gotta execute a little bit better, get a little more ball movement. We went over a lot of things in practice that will help us get through the ball pressure. It was just on us, we just have to finish through contact. We know what we did wrong.”
On play at the rim where Barnes’ dunk was blocked from behind: “I think he just blocked the shot from the back. Not really gonna argue that call, it’s a good block, it went the other way. There’s nothing really to it.”
On if he has ever played against UNC’s Kessler in high school or AAU: “No actually, I knew of him. I heard of him because I think he played on the Adidas circuit or something like that. I never really played versus him. In high school, he was a long kid that can really shoot the ball, he was very skilled in high school. He changed his game kinda, coming into UNC. But yeah, he’s a good player.”
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams’ comments:
On Hamilton’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy: “Things are coming up for him, the national hall-of-fame. Leonard Hamilton deserves to be in the hall of fame. He is a good friend, he has been a friend for a long time. When I was starting out, he was at Kentucky. What he’s done, his record, more than likely he is going to win the league again for a second year in a row. That right there is really, really hard. He lost two guys drafted in the first round. But he came back again, he’s playing 10 or 11 guys all the time. He is a hall of fame coach and I feel very honored and blessed to call him a friend…That’s a hall of fame coach right there and I hope it works out for him in the voting because he really deserves it. People always say ‘well look at his record early’, he didn’t have basketball schools or anything like that but he made every one of them better.”
On how the additional fans in Chapel Hill affected the game today: “I don’t think we came out sluggish because the crowd was there, I think we came out sluggish because Florida State hit us right in the mouth. And we backed up. We didn’t handle the fire, we didn’t face up to the fire, we got more timid.”