Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Sweet 16 Bound!!!!


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It’s not often you see a smiling Leonard Hamilton after a game even when it is a win. But after a near perfect performance Hamilton had plenty of reason to grin from ear to ear after Florida State manhandled Notre Dame all game long in beating the Fighting Irish 71-57 to reach their first Sweet 16 since 1993.

Lower seeds such as a ten seed that Florida State came into the NCAA as generally don’t beat second seeded teams in such dominating fashion. But that is exactly what the Seminoles did in giving nothing easy to the Irish from start to finish.

Heck, even the walk ons got into the swing of things as Andrew Rutledge finished off the scoring with a three pointer from the right corner with just seconds left in the game.

The shooting statistics tell the story of the dominance. FSU shot 45% while a stifling defense held Notre Dame to just 30% that included 7-30 three point shots  well below their 39% season average.  Meanwhile FSU, not known as a three point shooting team, shot 9-19 from behind the arc.

Notable also in the statistics as well was free throw shooting. Notre Dame had taken 316 more trips to the stripe than its opponents over the course of the season. Instead it was the Seminoles who was the aggressor making almost as many freebies as the Irish took (18-25 compared to 12-19).

Notre Dame had one lead in the game at 2-0 and tied it just once, 9-9. But a flurry of three pointers, seven in total, in the first half staked the ‘Noles to a 34-23 halftime lead.

And then FSU upped that to twenty-three, 52-29, after  Michael Snaer (who had just swatted away Ben Hansbrough shot at the other end of the floor) nailed a three pointer from the right corner.

The Irish did make an 11-0 run right after that to close to 52-40. But that as close as the Domers would get as FSU opened it back up to sixteen, 63-47, with 3:59 to play.

It would be hard to point to anyone player to credit for the win, just the way Hamilton likes it, because it was clearly a team effort at both ends of the floor.

Bernard James recorded yet another double double with 14 points and 10 boards made even more remarkable after having multiple IVs earlier in the day due to flu like symptoms. Snaer had an excellent game with 13 points. Derwin Kitchen had 10 with 6 of the team’s total 15 assists (against just 12 turnovers) and Okaro White added 10 as well.

And on defense, FSU frustrated Notre Dame on every possession with defenders in the face of the shooter on nearly every shot and just physically beat down the Irish knocking cutters off their routes. Rotations to the ball were nearly flawless allowing ND a scant few dribble penetrations and an extended defense pushed the guards out past their comfort zone.

As former Wake Forest Head coach Dino Gaudio now ESPNU analyst said after the game, “FSU contests every shot. They don’t hope you miss …. they MAKE you miss.”

It quite possibly was the best offensive and defensive performance of the season for the Seminoles.
Notre Dame Head coach Mike Brey sensed that as well waving the white flag by emptying the bench with 1:33 to play.

“I thought we executed our game plan well”, Hamilton said. “We moved the ball well, we made the extra pass.”
“Hopefully, this is just the beginning of something special,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. “The good thing about this team is I still think our best basketball is ahead of us.”

No offense coach, but after years of frustration for FSU fans, this season is already something special.

“If we can stay consistent on the offensive end, I like our chances,” said Derwin Kitchen, who had 10 points and six rebounds. “We’ve just been so up and down and inconsistent on the offensive end, it allowed us to stumble at times and lose a few games. If we can stay consistent and execute on the offensive end, I like our chances because we play so well on the defensive end.”

The bottom line … FSU completely outplayed, outhustled, and outworked the Irish all game long showing anyone who didn’t know already why FSU is known to have the stingiest defense in the country.

Add to that an offense that is clicking efficiently and it’s not hard to see why the Seminoles are making their deepest run into the NCAA in 18 years.

A lasting sight will be a post game celebration at mid court with Hamilton’s team rubbing the head of their smiling coach.

So FSU heads to the Sweet 16 to play VCU next Friday night in San Antonio. The game will make a little history as well as no 10 seed has ever played an 11 seed in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

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