Thursday, July 24th, 2014

FSU Moves On in the NCAA

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When the pairing of Florida State and Texas A&M, two teams noted much more for their defensive prowess than their offensive capabilities, was announced last Sunday, fans and pundits quipped that the first team to fifty would win the game.

That proved to prophetic.

With 2:28 left in the game, Bernard James swatted away B.J. Holmes layup right into the hands of Ian Miller who promptly saw Michael Snaer all alone racing down the floor.  The subsequent layup put FSU on that 50 point plateau.

And just for good measure Snaer added a free throw having been fouled on the play by Khris Middleton giving the ‘Noles a 51-42 lead en route to a 57-50 win over the Aggies.

It was the first NCAA tournament win for the Seminoles since beating TCU96-87 in 1998 in the first round.

“Coach (Hamilton) talked to us a lot about FSU having no first round win in the NCAA for a while”, Bernard James said afterward who finished the game with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and led a FSU block party (10) with 3 blocked shots probably none more important than his third one.

Leonard Hamilton had said all week that it was all business for this and would take care of business in Chicago getting that first round failure off their back.

Speaking on the victory, “It’s huge, it’s huge”, said James.

“We came out and played as hard as we could”, said James speaking about the second half. “We didn’t do a good job of posting up in the first half and Coach called the big men out about it. He called me out personally.”

That second half effort was reflected in the shooting percentage of the Seminoles. For the first twenty minutes, FSU shot just 38% but shot well over 50% in the second twenty minutes to finish 47% for the game.

Hamilton commented, “The first half I thought that both teams played pretty good defense, from our standpoint. Their defensive schemes caused us to stand, and we didn’t have very much ball movement. They kind of stymied us a little bit. We couldn’t get any type of offensive flow.”

“I thought the second half we executed a lot better, shot a much higher field goal percentage. I thought our players committed themselves to reversing the ball and moving the ball and making an extra pass, and we got higher percentage shots.”

Key in that was Derwin Kitchen who scored 12 of his team leading 15 points in the second half.

Obviously the senor guard was not ready to see his college career end just yet.

After a not so stellar start that saw the ‘Noles turn the ball over on its first two possessions of the second half and down 31-23, Kitchen scored the next five points with a strong drive to the basket and a pull up three pointer from above the key.

James added the next eight points off an offensive put back and a slam dunk off a nice assist from Ian Miller to pull FSU to within one, 31-30, with 15:45 to play. Teammates found James again on the blocks for two more layups.

Michael Snaer finished off the 13-0 FSU run with a runner from the right side of the lane and a 36-31 Seminole lead at the 11:25 mark.
It was a lead that the ‘Noles would not relinguish for the remainder of the game.

Kitchen made sure of that after the Aggies had closed to within one, 38-37, making the first of two free throws but missing the second.
Quickly realizing the second free throw was short, Kitchen raced in and grabbed the rebound to retain possession for the Seminoles.

That effort was rewarded when Jon Kreft fed Kitchen the ball who scored on a layup giving FSU a 43-37 margin.

For good measure Kitchen burned Naji Hibbert off the dribble on the left wing and scored yet another layup plus the foul.

Middleton made it 48-42 off an offensive put back when Okaro White did not block out the forward at the 4:27 mark.

A&M would not score again until more than three minutes had passed from a Holmes three pointer.

By that time (1:13) FSU was leading 53-45 with the Seminoles clearly in control of the game.

A run out by Snaer off the inbound pass from the baseline under the AM basket for the easy basket made it 57-48 and a meaningless basket by the Aggies finished the scoring.

Of note was the return of Chris Singleton to the floor. Singleton showed some rust but found ways to contribute playing 16 minutes, ten coming in the second half. The junior finished with 5 points, 2 boards, a steal, and a blocked shot.

As FSU fans have come to expect, the nation leading in field goal defense Seminoles held the Aggies to just 31% for the game holding A&M to a woeful 22% in the second half.

Also in FSU’s favor was free throw shooting. Not necessarily theirs but the inability of A&M to knock down the freebies connecting on just 9-19 attempts.

But notable in that statistic is that A&M took only two of those in the second half. For a team that likes to make more free throws than their opponent takes, the poor shooting and the inability to get to the line was key.

Credit adjustments at halftime after the Aggies were exploiting the aggressive defense of the Seminoles. Among those adjustments was the use of a zone defense specifically a three-two zone defense.

“We don’t use very many possessions of zone in our defensive schemes, but we felt that they were doing such a good job executing, we had a hard time keeping them in front of us”, Hamilton said later. “So we thought just a change would be good for our defense, even if we had to go back to our man to man.”

Middleton finished with 16 point, Nathan Walkup added 11, and David Loubeau scored 10.

With the win FSU continues its season and will play Notre Dame, 69-56 winners over Akron, on Sunday (time yet to be determined).

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