FSU Survives Syracuse Scare: 3 Game-Changing Plays

With Devin Vassell out for unannounced reasons and MJ Walker missing most of the game after receiving an elbow from Dominik Olejniczak, this very well could’ve ended in a loss for Florida State. And for a little bit, it looked like they would lose.

The first half was back and forth, but Florida State closed on a 12-4 run in the final five minutes of the opening frame to give them an 8-point lead at the break.

After being up the entire second half, Syracuse fought back and took a 62-59 lead with just under 6 minutes remaining. Some (READ: a lot of) questionable calls/non-calls from the officiating gave Syracuse some chances at the line, where they’d stretch the lead to 4. As Florida State has done all season, they refused to quit and and battled back with some key plays down the stretch to win 80-77.

We will get to those, but first, some box score notes.

One of the biggest keys to beating Syracuse is hitting outside shots, which Florida State was able to go 11/25 (44.0%) from behind the arc. Syracuse was just 7/25 (28%) from distance in comparison. Hitting those 4 extra shots from deep made up for their carelessness with the ball, as FSU turned it over 18 times. Usually the ‘Noles are the ones forcing turnovers, but ‘Cuse only had 11 turnovers.

Another big factor for FSU’s win was offensive rebounding. They had 7 offensive rebounds in the first 4 minutes on their way to finishing with 20 offensive rebounds. This is their 3rd game in a row with 15+ offensive rebounds, and this is following a 3 game stretch where they never had more than 9. Florida State dominated the glass in general, outrebounding Syracuse 47 to 29.

After being cold from the free throw line to start the game, FSU was 7/7 in the final three minutes from the charity stripe. That’s a good way to bounce back from a subpar performance at Duke from the line.

Despite only playing 18 minutes due to the busted lip, MJ Walker was dynamite: 16 points on 5/9 shooting from behind the arc. If he plays his usual minutes while hitting at his same clip, Florida State wins comfortably. When he went down, FSU was having to find alternate forms of offense.

One of those alternate forms was Patrick Williams off of the bench, who finished with a team-high 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block. His minutes were huge, as he was able to fly around the court and be a distraction with his length, but he was getting (almost) whatever he wanted at the rim.

Trent Forrest was a little passive to start the game, but finished with 13 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. When the team needed him most at the end of the game, he attacked the basket and got to the free throw line, something he needs to do. Those 6 assists were huge for this team.

For Syracuse Joseph Girard III was electric, finishing with 22 points, 7 rebound and 5 assists to pair along side his 5/12 shooting from distance. He was hitting shots from all over the floor, and it was tough to guard him most of the game.

Elijah Hughes was questionable to play in this game, and even went down early in the game again after slipping, but he ended with 25 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He may have taken 20 shots to get there, but still a tough and gutsy performance from Hughes when Syracuse really needed a win.

Buddy Boeheim was non-existent this game, finishing with 0 points on 0/7 shooting and 0/5 from downtown. I said Florida State was going to try and make him a play-maker, and they did just that, as he had 3 turnovers as well.

Onto the plays.

Play 1

Scenario: 3:49 Remaining in the game

There’s a lot I could say about this play, but let’s start with the result and the impact on the game. This dunk (plus the following free throw) by Quincy Guerrier put the Orange up 4 going into the final 4 minutes. Syracuse had all the momentum, but Florida State was able to bounce back and win the game.

Now on the officiating side, this should’ve been a loose ball foul on Elijah Hughes for pushing off on Patrick Williams. I don’t understand how it’s not a loose ball foul. Had Syracuse been able to hold on, this is likely the play we look back at and go “what if?” The officiating was rough all game, this was just the icing on the cake (side note, let me know if I should make a thread on Twitter about every bad officiating decision in the game).

Play 2

Scenario: 2:30 Remaining in the game

MJ Walker. Ice.

There’s no breakdown other than Walker sells his pump fake, resets his feet, and rises to hit a big time shot. Despite his mouth being a completely different color, he was able to fight through and hit an incredible shot.

Play 3

Scenario: 1:15 Remaining in the game

I debated on whether to go with this play or the one before, but luckily the clip begins juuuussssttt as the play before is ending.

Pat Williams was able to get 2 defenders in the air before he laid it in, and FSU was able to retake the lead. The following play was outstanding defensive effort.

I’m not entirely sure MJ Walker gets a piece of that ball, it’s certainly close, but at the very least it’s a phenomenal contest on a layup (for what it’s worth, he wasn’t credited with the block). Elijah Hughes had half of a step on Walker, but Walker’s athleticism makes up for so much.

Bonus Play

It’s fitting that Florida State’s winningest player gets to put the final touches on this win. Congratulations to Trent Forrest and the rest of the 2016 Recruiting Class (Forrest, Jonathan Isaac, CJ Walker, Mfiondu Kabengele, PJ Savoy, and Braian Angola-Rodas) on become the top class, overtaking the 2015 recruiting class.


Florida State is looking for revenge next, as they host Pittsburgh on Tuesday night in the Tucker Center at 8pm on the ACC Network.

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