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FSU Dominates Colorado to Advance to the Sweet 16: 3 Game-Changing Plays

Ain’t it sweet. “Experts” were picking Colorado to win, “FSU fans” were picking Colorado to win, but Florida State believed in themselves and dominated the second half on their way to their third straight Sweet 16.

This one wasn’t easy. The first half was one of the ugliest halves of basketball you will see these days. There were more combined turnovers from the teams (19) than made field goals (18) in the first half. FSU just came out firing on all cylinder in the final 10 minutes of the game to win 71-53, and forced Colorado into their second highest turnover outing of the season with 18, their 4th worst shooting performance from the floor on the season, their second worst FT shooting performance on the season, and their second worst scoring performance on the season.

Florida State ramped up the pressure, shot 63% from the floor in the second half, Anthony Polite had a career night, and McKinley Wright was strapped all night. FSU is now 17-0 in games where they hold their opponent under 76 points. In turn, it led to FSU’s 8th Sweet 16 in program history. Before we get to the plays, some box score notes.

You would’ve never known Colorado was coming off of a game where they scored 96 points on 16/25 shooting from deep. The best free throw shooting team of all time went just 7/11 from the free throw line. Really the only concern there is the offensive rebounds for Colorado, but they only converted 16 offensive rebounds (a season high) into 10 second chance points. If that alone doesn’t speak to the defensive effort from FSU tonight, I don’t know what does.

As mentioned, Anthony Polite was superb. A career high 22 points on 8/12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. He was not going to let FSU lose tonight, and he was breaking out every move in the book. Just a phenomenal effort when Scottie Barnes and MJ Walker are still playing hobbled and not really scoring.

Malik Osborne was the only other player in double figures for Florida State with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and a steal. Just speaks to the total team effort from this team, and how anyone can be the guy on any given night.

RaiQuan Gray was solid with 9 points and 6 rebounds, MJ Walker played much more in control with 7 points, 3 assists, a steal, and zero turnovers, and Scottie Barnes was picking apart Colorado’s 2-3 zone they went to with 6 points and 5 assists.

For Colorado, McKinley Wright IV’s performance was a microcosm of Colorado as a whole. He finished with just 10 points on 4/12 shooting, 1 assist (after having 13 against Georgetown), and 5 turnovers (after having 0 two days ago). He is their best shot creator and play maker, and when FSU was able to shut him out, Colorado had no other answer. He was clearly frustrated in the second half, and I would be too when as a team FSU draws 4 offensive fouls. For a minute, it looked like it would be Evan Battey who could pick up the scoring, who finished with 11 points, but once he got into foul trouble, no one else could reliably score. I mean this is what Wright was seeing all game.

Ball is being inbounded in a completely different direction and he has two bodies within three feet of him. Incredible defensive pressure from the jump.

Onto the plays.

Play 1

Scenario: FSU is Inbounding Up 36-35

This is one of my favorite inbounds plays we run, but it’s saved just for zone defenses because of where the screens line up.

I wish we played more 2-3 teams simply for this play. It’s such a momentum changer. Colorado had just gotten two quick buckets to cut the lead to 1 before we get a BLOB play. Barnes passes it to Sardaar Calhoun, who passes it up the arc as Barnes gets it again, all while Wyatt Wilkes and Malik Osborne are setting back screens on the two low defenders. Easy lob.

Love this play.

Play 2

Scenario: Momentum-Changing Sequence

This one isn’t as much of a play as it is a sequence.

First, we have this drive and no-call into a quick foul.

The drive could’ve or could not have been a foul. I think it’s a good no-call, but given the calls the rest of the night I’m surprised it wasn’t a foul. After RaiQuan Gray was immediately fouled on the rebound, Colorado’s coach Tad Boyle was given a technical foul arguing the call. This alone is a 4-point swing. Then the first play after the free throws is this:

It took Wright 5 seconds alone to get the ball, then with the on-ball pressure of RayQuan Evans, it forced a 10-second violation. This is now a 6 or 7-point swing. Then the very next play.

A wide open shot from your hottest player on the night. Buckets. A 9 or 10-point swing in a span of 20 seconds of game time. That’s how you win a ball game (could’ve been 11 or 12 had FSU hit all of their free throws from the foul and technical, but I digress). There was no looking back from that point forward.

Play 3

Scenario: Capitalizer

Polite was in his BAG tonight.

This finished it off. There would be no miracles after this play.

Bonus Play!

Scenario: Turk to Balsa

This is just the basketball nerd in me freaking out, but this pass from Gray to Balsa Koprivica with Balsa sealing off his man perfectly… *chef’s kiss*. Beautiful

I wouldn’t say this play was necessarily “game changing, but man is it impressive.

Florida State will get to play the #1 seed in this region, Michigan, this weekend in the Sweet 16. This will be a rematch of the 2018 Elite Eight, a game I am still scarred by. We will have full coverage on here, on our podcast Hear the Spear, and on my Twitter @NolesVikesVeaz.


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