FSU Gets First ACC Win Against GT: 3 Game-Changing Plays

It got close there for a little bit, a little too close for comfort. Florida State led comfortably by 7 at halftime and got out to a 16-point lead midway through the second half before Georgia Tech stormed back with a 15-0 run, closing the gap to 51-50 with just under 10 minutes to play. Then, Scottie Barnes went and did Scottie Barnes things.

By the end of the game, Florida State was able to pull away for a 74-61 win for the first conference win of the season and their 27th straight home win.

Florida State’s gameplan was simple defensively. Swarm the middle, let them take 3s and it paid off. Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado both had their worst games of the young season. The game was only close because of Jordan Usher and Michael Devoe having their best games of the season. If you were to pick two of those four players to play really well, you’d much rather have it be Usher and Devoe than Wright and Alvarado.

Before we get to the plays, let’s look at some box score notes.

Florida State had a solid night offensively, scoring 74 points against this Georgia Tech defense is no easy task. As a team, FSU shot 27/51 (52.9%) from the floor, 8/17 (47.1%) from 3, and 12/16 (75%) from the free throw line. This has turned out to be a great 3-point shooting team so far, shooting 40.2% from 3 through 4 games. They were obliterating Georgia Tech’s zone and forced them into running man for the remainder of the game. Once GT went man, they struggled a little bit with fouls; Moses Wright ended up fouling out.

The biggest key for the game was turnovers. Coming into the game, the winner of the turnover battle won the game as well for Georgia Tech. Consider that trend busted. Florida State coughed up 13 turnovers to Georgia Tech’s 12. I did say if the game stayed in the 12-14 turnover range for each team, I liked FSU’s chances, and that turned out to be the case. The main difference was 3-point shooting. Florida State allowed Georgia Tech to shoot 3s rather than allow looks at the rim, but Georgia Tech just came up short, possession after possession. They came into the game shooting an underwhelming 30.4% from 3, and somehow underwhelmed that with a 5/20 (25%) performance.

Florida State won most of the other finer details of the game as well: rebounding (29 to 23), assists (13 to 11), and fouls (14 to 16, should’ve been a wider gap than that).

Leading the way offensively was again Scottie Barnes, who looks more and more comfortable with every game, finishing with 16 points (6/10 shooting), 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. When he has his mind set on going downhill, he is legitimately unstoppable. There were times where he was simply bigger, faster, and stronger than whoever was guarding him. It makes sense given GT’s smaller stature (Barnes is the same size as Moses Wright, GT’s center). He was also better from the free throw line, going 4/6. Still not great, but it’s much better. Now that he has more film on what he can improve he just keeps improving.

MJ Walker had the quietest 14 points that I can recall. He chipped in another 4 rebounds, steal, and an assist. Once again, when Florida State needed a bucket, he seemed to be the one to respond. Walker also had one really bad turnover where he just completely fumbled the ball; ball-handling is still something he has to clean up. But his leadership to this team is vital.

Anthony Polite has been slept on by a lot of fans and it’s time to wake up. Sure, the statline looks fine: 10 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, and a rebound, on 4/7 shooting and 2/4 from 3, but his defensive capabilities are among the best on the team. When GT got a turnover and was running in transition, Polite was usually the first one back to force a tough layup. I look forward to when they release defensive analytics, he should be towards the top.

Wyatt Wilkes woke up this game and was scorching hot in his 11 minutes, scoring 11 points on 4/7 shooting including 3/3 from downtown. His shooting broke open the first half and spread to some other players, like Nate Jack and Polite. If he can provide performances like this where he just comes in and scores a couple of 3s off then bench, it just makes this Florida State team that much more dangerous.

Balsa Koprivica struggled in the opening minutes with a bad shot, a couple of bad turnovers, and was just playing a little soft. Once he got rolling, he was vital. 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists (2 of which were really impressive). He’s got such gravity, it just sucks in defenses and opens up so much for the offense. His physicality is still something that needs to prove, but European players tend to be more finesse than physical, he’ll be fine. Koprivica’s skillset is too impressive.

Florida State’s depth was limited in this game due to RayQuan Evans and Tanor Ngom not being available. While the cause is unknown, they should be back for Saturday.

Georgia Tech was led by Michael Devoe, who woke up out of his early season slump to finish with 21 points and 4 rebounds. It took him 15 shots to get there, but him hitting shots was something he hasn’t done so far this season. Him and Moses Wright were the only ones that could get to the free throw line all game (except for one FT from Kyle Sturdivant).

Jordan Usher kept the Yellowjackets alive in the first half, with 10 of his 12 points coming before the break. In the second half, he was limited on the looks he was able to get. Their offense usually revolves around letting Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado getting looks; they just couldn’t get any.

Moses Wright went into halftime with a single shot attempt, a far-cry from where the rest of his season has been. FSU only allowed him to touch the ball when he was on the perimeter, and you could tell it was frustrating him. In the second half, he was able to get a few more touches down low and was able to get to the free throw line. Wright also tried to take out his frustrations with some big dunks… one worked, the other didn’t.

Jose Alvarado was held under 10 points, with just 7 points and 1 assist. FSU forced him to become a distributor, and took that a step further by making him a secondary distributor. Alvarado was not able to get the ball most of this game, and it took him out of getting any sort of rhythm.

Onto the plays.

Play 1

Scenario: 15:04 Remaining in 2H, Scottie Barnes gets a Steal

Barnes in transition is a thing of beauty to watch. His movements are so fluid for someone of his size. Just take a look at this.

First of all, the steal is impressive. Does a great job of staying one move ahead of Georgia Tech to jump the passing lane. The moves in the open court are equally as impressive. This opened the lead to 12, and really solidified Florida State’s momentum in this game. Unfortunately, that would come crashing down with a massive 15-0 run from Georgia Tech.

Play 2

Scenario: 9:25 Remaining in 2H, Florida State is in Half-Court Offense

The lead had shrunk to just 1, and Florida State was having issues creating easy looks. This one technically wasn’t easy either, but Barnes made it look that way.

The rest of this play doesn’t matter. It was a lot of trying to get inside with very little success. Scottie Barnes is just too big and too strong. He gets one poster every game at this point. His impact on Florida State goes outside just a game. He brings onlookers and excitement to a program, that yes has had success, but in un-flashy ways.

As great as recent draft picks have been, like Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell, they were more technically sound players who won without flair. It’s not the worst thing to compound on the excitement that the program has built up over the last few years with this kind of player. And Barnes just keeps getting better and more comfortable every game.

Play 3

Scenario: 6:01 Remaining in 2H, FSU is in Half-Court Offense

This was the best offensive possession of the night.

Gorgeous, gorgeous ball-movement. We talked about the European pick-and-roll in the Indiana game for MJ Walker’s gutsy 3 at the end of regulation, but I never really went into detail about how the play sets up.

It’s a double flat screen in the middle of floor with a lot of options for the ball-handler, and places a lot of trust in the ball-handler. It’s a normal flat ball-screen with a big, with another flat-back screen set for the big. This forces the defense to really choose one thing in particular to take away, since two screens are going to take at least one defender out of the set. They have to choose between: the ball-handler getting downhill, who chooses a side to go to based on the defense; the big, who is now being freed for a rim-run by the second flat screen; and the second screener who is popping up to the three-point line.

Indiana chose to take away Barnes. The ideal read would’ve been for him to take the lob, but he chose the safer pass which was the one up top. This time, Georgia Tech takes away the lob threat and Barnes, so he correctly chose the pass up top. Georgia Tech rotates from the right corner, and Anthony Polite gives a great shot fake, goes into the teeth of the defense, and passes out to an open Barnes. Barnes makes the smart decision to swing it one more time without hesitation to an open MJ Walker in the corner, who cashes the shot. Barnes’ open shot from 3 would have been a good one, but swinging it to FSU’s best three-point shooter, who is also wide open, makes it a great shot. This sequence is Spurs-like, and should be a proud moment for the coaches.

Florida State finally gets more than just a couple days of rest, and will look to prepare for UCF, Saturday night at 9pm in Tallahassee.


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