In the ACC Tournament semifinals, No. 2 seed Florida State took down No. 6 seed North Carolina Tar Heels 69-66 in Greensboro. FSU led 35-24 at the half, and held on down the stretch behind a few key last-minute defensive stops.
Leading scorer for the Seminoles was Balsa Koprivica, who had 17 points, 11 boards, and 4 blocks. Freshman Scottie Barnes added his usual 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, to go along with 2 steals.
After the win, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton and Barnes joined the media for post-game comments. Here is a full transcript:
Leonard Hamilton’s comments:
Opening statement: “North Carolina is a tremendously challenging team for us because of their ability to always have two, big strong, physical guys in the post. There was a time in the second half, where I thought that they were just playing volleyball in the lane with every shot that was missed. So it was a tremendous challenge for our guys to keep the ball away from them. In the second half, we defended a little better, we got some consecutive shots, and we were able to move the ball and get some timely scores. They overplay you and pressure as well as anybody. It was a challenging game for our guys, we just made enough plays, got enough stops there late in the game and hit enough free throws to pull away a very important victory.”
On learning from loss at UNC earlier in the season: “There is no doubt that in the second half in the last game that we lost to them, they came back with a lot more energy, they did a much better job of executing their offense. And they pounded us on the boards, they had 20 offensive rebounds. I don’t know what the rebounding total was today but I think we kind of neutralized them- well no, not really, they had 21 offensive rebounds tonight. Thank god they didn’t get 22. This is a very challenging team to keep off the boards because they are so big, strong, physical, and athletic. They have a knack for rebounding, and that is the strength of this team. But we got enough rebounds in order to pull away.”
On North Carolina’s offense: “Well, once again, Walton is such a tremendous shooter. It’s a challenge. When it hits his hands, he gets it off so fast, and he is so accurate…They were 5 of 11 from three, that will get you beat. It was one of those games where guys had to step up. I thought Balsa getting 11 rebounds, 17 points, and 4 blocked shots, they were all timely, gave us a little breathing room. In other words, there were a couple times where the game could have gone the other way if not for those timely blocks. I thought we got to the free throw line a little better in the second half than we did in the first half. We made some big shots there, Calhoun’s three was very important, Scottie’s push and finishing at the basket was very important. There were a lot of guys who stepped up that gave us an opportunity to come away with a victory. Whenever you play against a team as talented as Carolina, it’s a grind. We were just fortunate enough tonight making a couple plays towards the end that gave us a chance to win.”
On Virginia and other programs being knocked out of conference tournaments: “I have told our guys all along, you have to prepare yourself for the unexpected. This is a different kind of year, this shows that regardless of what you’re doing, you have to be a little lucky. Regardless of how much you’re washing your hands, wearing your masks, practicing all of the safety rules and regulations that we have been practicing all year long, and then come up there at the end, and something unfortunate happens, and you really don’t know where it came from or how it happened. That is just the nature of what we’re dealing with, this is one of those years where we just have to be grateful, prepare yourself for the unexpected, and hope that you are not affected by it. And if you’re not affected by it, you gotta consider yourself very fortunate.”
On Anthony Polite’s performance and three-pointer late in the game: “Anthony, I think he got hurt there in the first half, turned his ankle. That was a big three that he made late there in the second half, we really needed that because the game was in doubt there, I think we might have been climbing back from a deficit and had a little breathing room but not much. In a game like this, three points is a huge lead for you to have, when you are playing against a team that is capable of scoring in bunches like Carolina. But Anthony, I thought did a great job defensively, he held his own. His rebounding was important, can’t say enough about the contributions that he made. We had everybody making plays in this particular game, everybody keeping the ball live, because this game could have went either way.”
On Scottie Barnes’ performance and the defense down the stretch: “No doubt, we did a very nice job getting the stops. I think they might have scored one out of the last eight possessions, I believe, something like that. We were defending very well, and those long arms and contested shots were very important down the stretch.”
On Georgia Tech and the matchup tomorrow: “Just a scrappy team. They have exceeded everybody’s expectations. They are tough, they execute very well, they got the player of the year and the defensive player of the year on the same team. They bring a lot of talent to the table. They play a different brand of zone defense. They are as solid of a man-to-man defensive team as we’ll face all year. We got our head handed to us at their place, so we have a tremendous amount of respect for them. Once again, we know we need to be at our best in order to win tomorrow.”
On Florida State’s 18 turnovers tonight: “I just think that we both play aggressive man-to-man defense, we have long-armed athletes who get deflections and steals. They forced us into some turnovers, we forced them into some. That’s the nature of teams that play a very aggressive man to man style of defense. I thought we defended ourselves very well…Had 18 turnovers. A lot of that is because they are very, very good defensively, and then we made some poor decisions. But a lot of that was because North Carolina is known for their pressure defense.”
On whether Florida State “gave any consideration to not wanting to play in light of the Virginia news” (direct quote of question from reporter): “Are you serious? Excuse me? These kids have made such a tremendous sacrifice all year, and our kids have been tremendous. For me to not to want to play because of somebody else’s unfortunate challenge, I thought would be unfair, disrespectful to the ACC and to North Carolina who wanted to play, and for the sacrifices our players have made. Give me a reason why I should even consider that.”
On stopping UNC down the stretch: “Well I thought that our whole team stepped up and turned it up a notch from a defensive standpoint, that gave us a chance to get some stops, and I thought that probably was the determining factor in the game. Now they had some good shots, they had several shots in the lane where they came up a little short, we’ve done that some this year ourselves. But I thought we contested shots, we were physical inside, we were at least challenging them, and I thought that had a lot to do with it. This is one of those game where you point back at the last part of the game, but it was a lot of good plays that led up to that, that’s why I am so proud of the effort that our players gave.”
On Georgia Tech: “In my opinion, the job that they did was just phenomenal. I thought Josh, for him to come out and lose the first two games and be where he is now, top four season in the ACC, just says a lot about the quality of his leadership, and his coaching staff keeping those kids together. They seem to have been getting better and better with each game. The execution of their gameplans have been just tremendous. Then when you watch them play they are giving every ounce of effort that they have in their bodies. What can you say about the little man?- defensive player of the year. Nobody would have though Wright would be player of the year, that says a lot about their ability to develop kids. And have a system that takes advantage of who they are. They played seven maybe eight players most of the year, and I’m sure they’ve had the same aches and pains that most of us have had. But for them to gut it out and be playing for the championship game says a lot about the coaching staff and the fantastic job that they have done, and a lot about the character of the players on the team.”
On the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament this season after cancellation in 2020: “Well I have to give the NCAA, the ACC, our players, the universities and schools that participate in the ACC a tremendous amount of credit for being on top of the protocols. All the testing. The leadership that we have gotten has been tremendous. The sacrifices the player have had too, by just cutting down on their social activities, staying in their bubbles, where they eat where they sleep where they go. Its been a lot of sacrifice on everybody’s part. The leadership that comes from the ACC, you have to tip your hat to them. So to be here in the Championship game is somewhat rewarding, but we don’t want to start taking any bows now. We missed out on this opportunity last year. We want to make sure we go tomorrow and be prepared to see whether or not we can come away with a victory.”
Scottie Barnes’ comments:
Quotes Courtesy of Atlantic Coast Conference, ACC Communications, and FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Q. Talk about clamping down defensively down the stretch there, and secondly, you guys faced adversity tonight and responded to it.
BARNES: I would just say we knew that we needed to make big key stops and were all just motivated and committed to making those stops as a team. So I would just say that’s why the last four minutes that we just— we just really knew what we needed to do defensively. We needed to get stops. We needed to grind it out because it was going to be a tough win. I would say facing adversity, we knew what happened last time, so we just knew we couldn’t give that up and this opportunity that we have this time. So that’s what probably made us have that willingness to come back and just keep fighting and go through down the stretch.
Q. What was it like playing against a team you saw twice this season. Did they do something differently tonight that you guys didn’t see the last two meetings?
BARNES: I would just say they really did the same things. They have a really good physical presence in the inside. We knew that we needed to box-out because they’re a very big team. They’re very big and physical. I would say that it wasn’t really a lot of big different things. It was just — it was basically we knew our game plan and we just knew what we needed to do.
Q. What can you say about Balsa and what he did for you guys tonight inside?
BARNES: I think Balsa had a hell of a game. He really played hard. He just did a lot of things. He ran in transition, allowed them to break them down defensively, helped us get our transition points. He rebounded very well. He boxed out. I think he really took on that challenge, and he fought all game, all night.
Q. You play Georgia Tech for the championship game tomorrow. They have the ACC Player of the Year and the defensive Player of the Year. What have you learned from both match-ups against Georgia Tech that you can use to your advantage tomorrow?
BARNES: Of course they have the defensive Player of the Year with José Alvarado. He’s a very good defender. We know he’s very active and he wants to get on the — he knows he wants to get on the best scorers and just tries to shut them down the entire game. We know we’ve got to hold down Moses Wright. They have a great team, they have a great offense that they run, and they’re very good defensively with switching up their defenses throughout the game. So we know we’ve just got to hand it to the offense, lock in defensively as a team. We’ve played them two times, but they have a very good toughness about their team, where their willingness, where their players put their bodies on the line each and every night.
Q. I was curious the last couple days with Duke and Virginia getting knocked out with COVID issues. When you see that kind of news whether you’re in the hotel or whatever, what goes through your mind, what’s your reaction to that?
BARNES: It’s sad to see those teams go out with COVID. Those are two good teams, where you would just want to play them and try to get in that environment where you want to play them down the road. But it’s just a thing where you’ve just got to be grateful for each and every game that you play. You never know what’s going to happen throughout these tough times. You’ve just got to be grateful for every game that you get to play.
Q. You came down kind of hard, challenging an inbounds pass late in the first half. Obviously you were able to come back in the game, that’s good. How are you feeling after that?
BARNES: I don’t think so. I hurt my wrist a little bit, but I feel fine. I don’t really feel nothing right now, so I feel good.
Q. There was a time, I think it was when you guys took back the lead late in the game, you seemed very fired up and emotional. What were the emotions like going down the stretch of this game?
BARNES: Going down the stretch of the game, I just wanted us to just stay hyped as a team because I wanted us to keep fighting and fighting and have that power to get through that bump in the road that we hit for a little while. We just needed a really — I just wanted us to keep having motivation and keep fighting and fighting because we still won that game and we just needed to fight through adversity at that moment.