FSU Finally Wins at Pitt: 3 Game-Changing Plays

It’s been a long time coming for this one. Florida State had only won at Pittsburgh once ever, a 71-66 win in 2014. Some really good teams have lost at Pitt, including last year’s team, but this year’s team was able to come away with the win, without a single point from MJ Walker.

The first half was a solid half on both ends. Really the only issue I had was Justin Champagnie was getting open too often on off-ball movements. He’s a fun player to watch, he’s all hustle and IQ but it works. His off-ball movements and his zone work arounds are really, really special.

Second half was a sloppy, foul-laden, referee driven mess. The first half had just a combined 12 total fouls. The second half? 25. Luckily it was on both sides and not just for FSU. The ‘Noles were able to capitalize from the free throw line on a day where not everything was going offensively. Barnes was aggressive, Gray was spectacular defensively, and FSU was able to come away with a 79-72 win.

Before we get to the plays, some box score notes.

I’d have to go back and check, but 38 points allowed in the paint is the most I can remember FSU giving up in a long time. Between there and the free throw line, FSU was able to dominate in those two areas offensively and it was the major difference. Even though the game was within a couple of possessions most of the way, Florida State was still able to lead for 35 minutes in this game.

For once, FSU struggled to hit from 3, a farcry from Monday night. Only 3 players were able to hit one at all from behind the arc. MJ Walker was silent all game. 0 points on just 5 total shot attempts. That can’t happen again, but the fact FSU was able to come away with a win despite his dud on the scoreboard shows the depth and bucket-getting capability FSU has across the roster.

Leading the way was again RaiQuan Gray, who finished with 16 point, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. He easily could’ve had 20 plus had he finished a couple of transition opportunities.

Scottie Barnes was inefficient, shooting just 4/13 from the floor, but he was aggressive. And him being aggressive led to him cleaning up his own messed. He was able to finish with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks, and had some really impressive passes.

Malik Osborne continued his impressive stretch with 12 points and 9 rebounds. His improved ability to hit a free throw is one of the least talked about things this season, he came into the game at 85.7%, and went 6/7 in this game. I remember when he was redshirting and he was in the 57-62% in practices and free throw drills, and he was just 59% last season. To jump this high is incredible.

RayQuan Evans scored almost exclusively at the FT line. 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and was 10/12 from the charity stripe. Having a primary ball-handler that can reliably hit free throws is a major advantage come March.

Another fun fact is every Seminole that touched the floor today grabbed at least two rebounds. FSU as a whole has been much better rebounding the ball than in years past, and it’s such a nice change of pace. While Pitt grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, FSU was able to counter with 12 offensive rebounds, and won the rebounding battle overall. Pitt is a really great rebounding team in their own right.

For Pitt, Justin Champagnie was magnificent. 21 points and 10 boards. I’ve already gushed about him enough, but I really enjoyed watching him for a couple of possessions at a time and watch his positioning. Tape any player should watch. Xavier Johnson was quiet in the first half, but came alive in the second half to finish with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Onto the plays.

Play 1

Scenario: 4:30 Remaining in 1H, FSU enters halfcourt

Pitt had gone zone to try and disrupt FSU’s offense. Generally, you don’t go zone against a team that averages almost 40% from 3 as a team. This is just great ball movement to move the zone. Koprivica almost lost it, but was then able to find Wilkes in the corner and he nails it despite pulling his back.

Play 2

Scenario: 15:48 Remaining in 2H, Calhoun saves a ball from going out of bounds

First of all, phenomenal save by Calhoun, but this is the peak version of what people expect from Anthony Polite. Pitt runs a Horns set against him, he’s able to get the leak out pass from Daar, and he’s able to take it coast-to-coast and finish with an and-one. If he’s able to be a secondary ball-handler and creator while still being an elite 3-and-D wing, that’s as good of a player as you can hope for.

Play 3

Scenario: Scottie Shot-Clock Beating Dunk

FSU was just trying to run out the clock, and this is certainly one way to do it.

The ‘Noles tried to run their usual late clock play, but Barnes realized there wasn’t enough time left on the clock and just bursts towards the rim. Aggressive Scottie is elite Scottie, he’s unstoppable when he has his mind set on it.

FSU has two more road games this week, starting with Miami on Wednesday night.

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