NoleGameday

Florida State defeats FGCU, advances to play Xavier in the round of 32

The Florida State Seminoles held off a feisty Florida Gulf Coast team to win their first-round game in the NCAA Tournament, 86-80. The victory helped advance the Noles to the round of 32, something they haven’t done since 2012. They will face the Xavier Musketeers of the Big East.

Xavier is 22-13 on the season. They average 74.7 points per game on 45.5% shooting from the field and 34.2% from three-point range. The Musketeers upset Maryland in the first round 76-65. They did this with a blend of stifling defense and efficient offense. In the win, they held Maryland to 40.7% shooting from the field and 25.9% from deep. Xavier also kept Maryland’s star guard, Melo Trimble, in check. He was limited to 13 points and three assists, finishing a mere 5-15 from the floor as he was swarmed by an attacking Musketeer defense.

Xavier balanced their strong defense with an offense that came up big when they needed it. After trailing 36-35 at the halftime break, they outscored the Terrapins 41-29 in the second half. They shot 50% from the field and 39.1% from three during the win. The Musketeers played eight different players, with six of the eight playing 21 or more minutes. They were led by junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who finished with 21 points, four rebounds and four steals. He knocked down five of Xavier’s nine made triples in the game, and many of them came in the clutch. Bluiett is without a doubt the Musketeers most dangerous offensive threat and the Seminoles are going to need a big collective defensive effort from their guards to limit him.

Sean O’Mara, a junior forward, finished with season-highs in points and rebounds. He recorded 18 points and seven rebounds in the upset victory. The Musketeers came up big when they had to, and they’re definitely a threat to send Florida State home if the Noles struggle.

The Seminoles had ups and downs during their first-round game against FGCU, but the play of Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac, and Terance Mann was encouraging. Bacon broke out of his slump, putting up 25 points, nine rebounds, and two steals. He shot an efficient 11-17 from the field but didn’t make a trey in the game. He was back to the Bacon of old, taking shots within the offense instead of trying to force his opportunities. His aggressiveness and ability to get to the rim was on full display, this is the player that Florida State will need if they are to advance far in the tournament.

Jonathan Isaac also showed up big during his first NCAA Tournament game. He recorded 17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks. He was overshadowed by Bacon’s offensive performance but Isaac was the best all-around player on the court all night. His 17 points came on good shooting splits, as he finished 5-8 from the field. Isaac finished a mere 6-9 from the free throw line and 1-3 from deep. Terance Mann helped propel Florida State’s offense early in the second half, he was extremely aggressive, taking the ball right to the rim on five different occasions in the first few minutes. He scored the Noles first seven points of the second-half and finished with 11 points and five rebounds.

As a team, Florida State shot 55.6% from the field but only 15.4% from three (2-9). Thankfully, they limited their shots from outside and took the ball to the rim, where they’re at their best. The Seminoles aggressiveness led to a ton of opportunities at the line, but they’re going to need to convert at a higher percentage from the stripe as they advance farther in the tournament. They finished 24-39 (61.5%) from the free throw line.

The Noles size was also a big factor, and one that should continue to be down the stretch. When FSU plays to their size, they are a dangerous team. They outrebounded FGCU by 19, 40-21. They also had nine blocks, to the Eagles one.

Florida State did struggle with turnovers, they finished with 16 of them. They are going to need to cut this number down against better teams.

Projected starters:

– Florida State

PG: Xavier Rathan-Mayes

G: Dwayne Bacon

G: Terance Mann

F: Jonathan Isaac

C: Michael Ojo

 

– Xavier

G: Quentin Goodwin

G: Trevon Bluiett

G: J.P. Macura

G: Malcolm Bernard

F: Tyrique Jones

 

Keys to the game:

The Seminoles aggressiveness was a big reason they were so efficient against FGCU. Most of their shots came from the rim or around the paint, which are some of the most high-percentage shots in basketball. If the triples aren’t falling, like they didn’t against FGCU, then this team has to get to the rim. Whether they make the bucket or draw the foul, they’ll create easier opportunities to score.

After being careless with the ball against the Eagles, it’ll be interesting to see how FSU values their possessions against Xavier. Dwayne Bacon and XRM each finished with three turnovers, while all of the team’s starters finished with at least one turnover. Ojo had two, Isaac had two and Mann had one. 16 turnovers is simply too many, it could be credited to nervousness in the moment, as it was the first NCAA Tournament game for each of the players on the roster. Hopefully, they finish much better in this facet against the Musketeers.

Both of these teams finished with large advantages in rebounding margin during their round of 64 wins. Xavier outrebounded Maryland 34-24, while the Seminoles outrebounded FGCU by 19. It will be vital for Florida State to win the battle on the boards again, they have to continue to show a commitment to boxing out.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes struggled in the first game, finishing with 10 points, five assists and five rebounds on 2-7 shooting from the field and 5-10 from the free throw line. When he’s in a groove, the offense rolls. Look for him to rebound and turn it around against Xavier. Dwayne Bacon is going to need to keep doing more of the same thing we saw last night, though it would be good to see him knock down a few open looks from deep if he gets the opportunity. As for Isaac, I always love when he gets up into double-digit shot attempts, it means he’s being aggressive. And who doesn’t want an aggressive NBA Lottery pick on their team?

Improvements on shooting percentages from three-point range and the free throw line would be greatly appreciated. Shooting 15.4% from deep and 61.5% from the line likely won’t get this team too far. Thankfully, they did switch to attacking the rim after noticing their shots from deep weren’t falling, which is an excellent and smart adjustment.

Dustin Lewis

Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in English Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Writer for FSView Sports and Hashtag Basketball.



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