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Florida State Escapes Gardner-Webb: 3 Game-Changing Plays

A win is a win.

The first priority coming out of this game is making sure MJ Walker and Scottie Barnes get some rest before next game, both went down in the game with some mild injuries. Barnes was able to come back, Walker was not. Coach Hamilton made it seem like it was a minor injury and he should be okay moving forward.

This was a similar, yet completely different game than UCF. Similar in the fact that it was much closer than it should’ve been; different in that the closeness couldn’t have been for more different reasons. Against UCF, FSU couldn’t stop anything. Against Gardner-Webb, FSU couldn’t score. It’s not like they couldn’t get looks, a lot of them were wide open looks that just simply didn’t go in. Call it dead legs after playing late into Saturday night, call it whatever, FSU just did not hit shots. All that matters is that at the end, the ‘Noles were able to pull away for a 72-59 win.

For Gardner-Webb, only one player was able to get anything going at all and that was Lance Terry, who finished with 23 points on 8/19 shooting and 3/9 from 3. Take out his production, and GW’s total statline looks like 36 points on 25.6% from the floor and 25.0% from 3. It wasn’t like most of his looks were easy either, he made some incredibly difficult shots over length with some tough bounces.

On Florida State’s side, Anthony Polite was smooth and consistent all night, leading the way with a career high 15 points, adding 9 rebounds, 2 steals, an assist and a block on just 8 total shots. He still needs to improve his free throw shooting; he’s too good of a shooter to be hovering around 50% from the line, but his total game has come so far since he first came to campus.

Balsa Koprivica tacked on 14 points and 8 rebounds, but it certainly didn’t feel like it. He still needs to improve his physicality, and against smaller teams he doesn’t take advantage like he should, but you can still see his improvements from last season.

MJ Walker was quiet most of the night, finishing with just 7 points. Luckily for him, some other players were able to step up in his silence, like RayQuan Evans. Evans had his best game of the season with 8 points, including 2 huge 3s down the stretch. He added 4 rebounds and a steal as well. I thought the lineups with Evans, Barnes, Walker/Polite, Gray/Osborne, Koprivica were a little too clunky and didn’t have enough shooting, but they were able to attack the rim and get to the free throw line, which was vital down the stretch.

As a team, Florida State was unexplainably inefficient, shooting just 34% from the floor and 18% from 3. They were getting open looks all night, just could not hit shots. They were sloppy with the ball, especially in the first half, where they had 10 alone, and ended up finishing with 16. Uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, especially Malik Osborne and Walker, who combined for 9. Luckily, they were able to grab 18 offensive rebounds.

Onto the plays.

Play 1

Scenario: 15:06 Remaining in 2nd Half, FSU is inbounding

This sequence is so, so impressive from Anthony Polite and started to open the game up.

This assertive side of Polite is something rarely seen from him thus far in his career, but it’s great recognition to take what’s given to him and make a play out of it. FSU needed this kind of momentum play. Then he follows it up the very next play with:

Fantastic play recognition again and to stay true to his defensive principles, despite him guarding Gardner Webb’s best player on the night, then the courage to step up and take a charge. Another huge momentum building play. Not to be outdone with his next play, just two sequences later.

Polite fights for a tough rebound, then makes two defenders commit to him so he can get an outlet pass out for a basket on the other end. In a span of 1 minute, FSU went from a 3-point lead to a 9-point lead, almost exclusively due to Anthony Polite.

Play 2

Scenario: Scottie Barnes re-enters game

I’ll admit, I was wary of putting Barnes back in the game after he left with a foot/ankle injury. I was okay with not letting him put anymore pressure on it and just resting it going into Clemson. When he checked back in though, he immediately made a difference. Welcome to the Terrordome.

A genuine question, what is any team supposed to do against this kind of length when one player alone is this disruptive defensively? The trap across the halfcourt line in the second play was something not seen much from FSU, but I like it. I want to see more of it going forwards. While Scottie Barnes is still growing offensively, he’s ELITE defensively when his mind is set on it. In a span of 30 seconds, 2 steals and a block.

Play 3

Scenario: 2:42 Remaining in 2H, FSU is in half-court offense

This play starts sloppy, I’ll admit it. In fact, most of the offensive possession is sloppy. However…

For all of the easy looks they missed, THIS is the one that goes in. A few seconds before it was necessary, with a hand in his face, RayQuan Evans just absolutely drills it, increasing the lead to to 9. Gardner-Webb wouldn’t score again, but this kind of shit is impressive.

Florida State now gets a week to rest and get ready to play at Clemson on December 29 for their first road game of the season.


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