FSU Falls at Clemson: 3 Game Changing Plays

For the third straight game in this series, the team leading at halftime loses the game. A little of bad in a lot of places led to a 77-67 loss against a good Clemson team, a team that is arguably the best in the ACC right now. That is a really good defense the ‘Noles just played, but Florida State still beat themselves up a lot in this game.

The first five minutes of the game was some of the ugliest basketball I’ve ever witnessed, with 6 turnovers and a 4-2 score at the first media timeout. The rest of the half was pretty smooth offensively and FSU went into the half with a five point lead. Clemson wasn’t able to produce any good looks offensively, and their three best scorers were a combined 0/8 in the first half. The second half was a much different story, and Clemson got to the free throw line again, and again, and again. That was really the biggest difference.

Some box score notes before we get to the plays.

Three big reasons Florida State lost: free throws, turnovers, and rebounds.

FSU actually outplayed Clemson for the most part, shooting 41.9% from the floor against a team that came into the game allowing teams to shoot 37% from the floor. Meanwhile, Clemson shot 36.5% from the floor on essentially the same amount of shot attempts. Clemson was able to salvage a lot of these possessions with 19 offensive rebounds. I expected FSU to be the one crashing the offensive glass, but it ended up being Clemson that was relentless on the glass.

Clemson shot 33 free throws to FSU’s 9. That’s the major difference. Clemson got 24 free points. I’m not saying they didn’t deserve to shoot some free throws, but the foul disparity being 24-14 is embarrassing for this league; the game was incredibly physical the whole way through.

Then the turnovers… Florida State coughed it up 16 times to Clemson’s 12, and the turnovers just seemed to come at the worst times for FSU and their momentum. Clemson usually forces 19 turnovers a game so this is nothing new, but it’s still discouraging to see. Really, those are the things that lost FSU this game.

Scottie Barnes led the way with 14 points, but a decent amount of those came in the final couple minutes when the game was somewhat out of reach. His passing was on full display tonight, adding 5 assists, while also chipping in 4 rebounds and 2 steals.

MJ Walker was quiet for most of the night but still got to 11 points. Shots are really tough to come by against Clemson so it’s not a huge surprise, but FSU really needed him tonight. He added 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

The bench was really good in the first half, with Wyatt Wilkes and RayQuan Evans each scoring 9 points, but outside of them, no one could get anything going. And once the second half started, they couldn’t get anything.

Balsa Kopriciva looked much more physical this game, which was great to see. He ended up with 8 points and 8 rebounds, but was setting hard screens and fighting for position all night. The fouls he drew were all questionable over the back calls, which at least you can applaud the aggression.

For Clemson, Clyde Trapp led all scorers with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. He was aggressive and got to the free throw line seemingly at will, but was actually somewhat inconsistent from the floor at 4/10.

Nick Honor played sparingly in the first half and was held scoreless, then lit fire in the final ten minutes to finish with 13 points and 4 rebounds. He was flat out awful until he was able to see the ball go through the net at the free throw line, then hit some tough shots down the stretch.

Al-Amir Dawes was the last player in double figures for Clemson with 11. He was pretty silent most of the night, but hit some timely shots in the second half.

Onto the plays.

Play 1

Scenario: Start of the 2H

This is the last play where it seemed FSU was in control of the game, a quick transition kick-ahead to Balsa Koprivica.

Immediately after this, Clemson went on a quick 8-0 run to gain the lead right back. I would’ve liked to see FSU push the pace a little bit more than they did in this game, but Clemson’s defense is just so good.

Play 2

Scenario: 10:39 remaining in 2H, Wyatt Wilkes makes a 3

This isn’t one single play, it’s four minutes of game time. Florida State would score just one basket from here until the 6:20 mark. FSU was stuck out there with a weird lineup that Hamilton had put out there just to get them to the under-8 timeout, but there was never a stoppage of play. Guys were gassed midway through this stretch and it led to some ugly sequences, including this one.

Clemson wasn’t much better in this particular stretch, but they were able to finally hit some shots at the end of this stretch to get the lead out to 6. Florida State was caught out there with a lineup with no MJ Walker, Anthony Polite, or Scottie Barnes for way too long.

Play 3

Scenario: 3:08 remaining in 2H, Clemson enters halfcourt offense

FSU had a little bit of momentum following a Scottie Barnes steal and subsequent lay-in. All they had to do was play some defense.

Anthony Polite just bit a little too hard on the drive and gave up a good look to the hottest player in the moment. This was the biggest shot in the game. If Honor misses this, it’s typically a long rebound into a transition set, which would’ve been big in this moment.

Instead, he pushes the lead to 9 and FSU forces a quick, bad shot on the other end to essentially end the game.

Concluding Thoughts

This team reminds me a lot of the ’17/’18 and ’18/’19 teams. They start off slow but you can tell the seeds are planted for a great team come March. Clemson looks like the best team in the conference right now, and FSU had their chances to win this game. They have more chances to learn and apply what they’ve learned against Duke on Saturday night. I think people are quick to forget that last year’s team, the best team in program history, started with a loss at Pitt, and struggled in close wins over USF and Western Carolina. In the ’18/’19 season, FSU started off 1-4 in conference play before finishing 13-5 in conference. It takes a while for teams to find their groove, and this team didn’t get the offseason they needed for cohesion. They should be able to eat up on some weaker ACC opponents this season.

Florida State returns to the Tucker Center for a Saturday Night tilt against the Duke Blue Devils. We will have full coverage of this game, as usual.

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