Florida State Survives Against Western Carolina: 3 Game Changing Plays

Well, that was closer than we all expected.

Western Carolina started cold, but once they warmed up, the fire department couldn’t have put them out. Western Carolina held a 17-point lead with 3:41 remaining in the first half, but the Seminoles weathered the storm and had the lead down to 7 at the break. The second half was back and forth, and Florida State executed down the stretch in pivotal moments to give them the lift (more on that later). The result is all that matters at the end of the day and there are certainly a lot of things to tighten up for the next game. You’d much rather learn from a bad win than any type of loss, for sure, but I have a feeling the film sessions this week will be a little lengthy.

Florida State ramped up the defensive pressure in the second half, and allowed fewer open looks, and held the Catamounts to just 31 points in the second frame, including 2/9 from 3-point range after being 7/14 at halftime. Some box score notes before moving to the plays…

Y’all wanted MJ Walker to show up, and he showed up. Walker tied for a team-high 18 points, including three straight makes from distance midway through the second half followed by a lob assist to Devin Vassell in transition. Walker finished with 18 points on 5-11 shooting and 5-7 from the FT line, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block. He finally had confidence in his shot this game, and it came through for him.

The Diaper Dandies grew up tonight. Patrick Williams, especially, had himself a game, finishing with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and a block, and 9 of those points were in the final 3:12 of the game. The first 4 points were layups to tie the game each time, the 5th was an and-one free throw to give FSU the lead. His 7th points were another layup to regain the lead, and his 8th and 9th points were free throws to stretch the lead to 3 with 16 seconds left.

Balsa Koprivica may not have had the most eye-popping stat-line: just 4 points, 2 rebounds, and a block, but he was phenomenal in getting offensive positioning. Defensively, he still isn’t where he needs to be, but he was much improved tonight, and his block was a major momentum spike for FSU.

Malik Osborne is the world’s best hype man. 6 points, 9 rebounds, and a block where he stole the ball and the pride from Western Carolina. Osborne’s energy is always high, and his motor keeps everybody running. He is the perfect player for Coach Hamilton, and he has been awesome.

Trent Forrest again did what he had to do to help the team win, this time by scoring the ball. 16 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, a steal, and just one turnover (and a lost contact, stretching his lead in the ACC record books, probably). His ability to do whatever and whenever is such a blessing to the team, and he’s going to have to continue it throughout the season.

Now, onto the plays.

Play 1

Situation: 18:00 remaining, MJ Walker has the ball

For shooters, just seeing one shot go through the net can impact one’s confidence so much. Walker had been struggling to start the season and this game, but this shot is what turned it around. And it’s a shot that the average fan was saying “no MJ why” then five minutes later, those same fans are saying “shoot every shot MJ, please. Carry us.” A step back long midrange shot, but it was nothing but beautiful. The stepback freed up a ton of space for him to get the shot off and he sunk it.

Including this shot, Walker was 5/7 from the field and 3/4 from the free-throw line in the second half, and was the reason Florida State came back in this game. I mentioned in the preview, these buy games are for helping inexperienced players gain valuable experience, and for players that have been struggling to gain some confidence. Walker definitely gained some confidence tonight.

Play 2

Situation: 55 seconds left, Florida State is inbounding down one

Florida State loves to run this SLOB (SideLine Out of Bounds) in late-game situations. It’s similar to the draw up at the end of the Pittsburgh game in that it is designed to get Trent Forrest the ball while he’s already going towards the basket. Here’s the setup.

Devin Vassell and MJ Walker have already gone to the corners, while Malik Osborne comes to catch the ball at the elbow. Forrest inbounds the ball to Osborne, and Patrick Williams come to Forrest to set a screen, although it wasn’t the greatest screen. Williams’ man stays with Forrest, expecting Forrest’s man to get stuck on the screen. In reality, Forrest’s man gets under the screen and now both players are on Forrest, leaving Williams open.

Williams rolls to the opposite side of the basket, now with no man on him. Forrest puts up a shot, and Williams is there to clean up the mess and give Florida State the lead, this time for good.

As noted earlier, Williams was phenomenal down the stretch. He wanted the ball in his hands, especially for the free throws, and he delivered time and time again. He showed tonight why he was a five-star prospect.

Play 3

Situation: 28 seconds remaining, Western Carolina has the ball down 1

When Carlos Dotson wasn’t in foul trouble, he was a handful all night. He may or may not have gotten away with a hook on every single post move without one being called, but what can you do? Dotson finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds, so it made sense Western Carolina would want to go to him down the stretch. They wanted to get him in the post, 1-on-1 against Malik Osborne, but Osborne made the play of the game and it started with his defensive positioning.

Dotson was supposed to get this ball on the left block, but instead gets it just inside the 3-point arc. Absolutely phenomenal job from Osborne to force Dotson up and away to try and get the ball, and Osborne is STILL denying the pass, making it a tough catch. Dotson gets the ball and drives left, but Osborne plays it perfectly, keeping his arms straight up to not draw a foul while Trent Forrest comes over to double team.

Osborne again stays straight up, even as Dotson initiates contact, Dotson puts the shot up over Osborne’s outstretched arms, and Mozzy comes down with the rebound to essentially seal the game. Malik could not have played this possession any better, and as much as winning comes down to putting the ball in the basket, Osborne stepped up and prevented a bucket when it mattered most.

This game was wildly entertaining for a mid-November game against a mid-major. In fact, a lot of college basketball had crazy finishes tonight (BYU just hit a buzzer-beater against Houston that hit the rim and went straight up in the air before falling in). This was a great learning experience for Florida State, but they adjusted and overcame a tough challenge from the Catamounts.

Up next, Florida State will play WCU’s conference rival in Tennessee-Chattanooga on November 20 at 6:30 on FOX.

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