FSU Wins 7th Straight Over UF: 3 Game-Changing Plays

It honestly doesn’t even feel right to be talking about this game right now. From all of NoleGameday and the Florida State fanbase, our thoughts and prayers are with Florida’s Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed early in the game before being rushed to the hospital where last reports were he was in “critical condition, yet stable.” Leonard Hamilton asked Florida’s head coach Mike White if they wanted to continue playing and they did, so the article must go on.

Florida State looked sluggish early, giving away unnecessary turnovers and not matching up in transition, allowing Florida to get some easy baskets, opening up the game on an 11-3 spurt. Through the first 11 minutes of the game, FSU had just mustered up 14 points. After that, the offense started to open up and looks started coming more and more open.

The main difference was ball-handling and getting inside. There were very few shots from the inside to start the game, especially since Florida was doubling Balsa Koprivica almost any time he touched the ball. Once FSU was able to get by those initial defenders, everything opened up. Looks at the rim were much easier, the corner 3s I mentioned in the preview opened up, and they picked up the havoc on the other end of the floor. By halftime, they’d opened up a 10 point lead, and would go on to pace themselves the rest of the game on their way to an 83-71 win.

Florida State was led offensively by Scottie Barnes, who finished with 17 points on 7/10 shooting, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, and an assist. As we talked about in the preview, Barnes was MUCH more assertive, and got downhill with ease against a smaller Florida team. He was attacking ball screens so well to the point where Florida just started doing quick traps to get the ball out of his hands. His confidence was beaming all game. And a few big dunks help too. He still needs to improve his free throw shooting, but he keeps getting better every single game. If the 2021 NBA draft class wasn’t so loaded, he’d be on track to be in the discussion as the first overall pick.

MJ Walker was sloppy to start the game, and wasn’t that efficient on just 2-5 shooting. But he was a perfect 12/12 from the free throw line to get himself to 17 points as well. He struggled with ball control early, and had 4 turnovers to show for it, but once he settled down, he was drawing contact whenever he wanted. Walker also added 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.

Anthony Polite tied a career high with 14 points, adding 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block, while going 3/4 from outside. His shooting started the offensive awakening for Florida State, and it’s reasonable to say the Seminoles don’t win without him. The spacing Polite provided on offense and the sturdiness he provided on defense was invaluable.

After a big game against Indiana, RaiQuan Gray wasn’t great scoring, but did everything else well: 5 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. His primary concern coming into the game was probably to slow down Keyontae Johnson, but once he went down Gray just focused on doing the smaller things. He also sat for about 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, which shows in the box score as well.

The bigs weren’t as dominant I was expecting, especially Balsa Koprivica, but they were sending another body at him any time he caught the ball. He finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds, and a block. Tanor Ngom did well in his few minutes with 6 points and a rebound, but they didn’t give him the same treatment they were giving Koprivica. Malik Osborne didn’t provide much on the stat sheet, but once the analytics come out, he’ll be one of the more important pieces.

For Florida, Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann were the main ones to carry the torch offensively. Lewis finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks, a really impressive stat line. A lot of his points were hustle plays and sheer effort. His misses from the free throw line were one of his only flaws in the game. Mann finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and a steal. His development from last season to this is really impressive, he’s going to put up some great stats this season. The biggest problem for these two was they combined for 8 of Florida’s 20 turnovers. That’s going to happen when one of your biggest ball controllers in Keyontae Johnson goes down.

FSU did a great job on Noah Locke, limiting him to only 8 points on 5 shot attempts. That’s a big reason the ‘Noles won. They took away almost every opportunity for Locke to catch the ball. When he did get it, he made the pay, but those chances were few and far between. No one else had more than 7 points for the Gators.

As a team, FSU was 8/16 (50%) from 3, 26/54 (48.1%) from the floor, and 23/30 (76.7%) from the free throw line. The free throw numbers in particular are impressive, especially given how poor they’ve started the season from the stripe. Getting to the line 30 times is nothing to scoff at either, Florida is undisciplined with their reaches and FSU took advantage of it. Both teams were sloppy with the ball: 20 turnovers for Florida, 16 for Florida State. Florida’s shooting numbers were solid for a team going against FSU’s length: 42.4% FG, 43.5% from 3, and 68.8% from FT on 16 attempts.

This is Florida State’s 7th straight win over Florida, 26th straight home win, and 41st straight non-conference home win.

Onto the plays.

Play 1

Scenario: 16:28 Remaining in the first half, Florida is in transition.

This is the last we saw of Keyontae Johnson. I hate to include this as something to point out, but this game’s result and flow are much different because of this. Here was his last play in this game.

No signs at all that he was in any distress. He rose up for an incredibly athletic alley-oop, came down, tossed the ball to the baseline, and Florida State called timeout to settle things back down. Johnson would then collapse coming out of the huddle. Out of respect for Johnson and his family, that video will NOT be shared here or on any NG platform, but it’s so sudden. His legs just start wobbling and he fell face first. It’s a frightening video.

The last that was reported of his situation was from UF’s basketball page.

Mike White tweeted to keep praying for Johnson, and we will be doing that. His parents are flying into Tallahassee now.

After this, Florida just didn’t look the same, especially offensively. Almost all of their sets are for Johnson. When a play breaks down, he’s the one that can make something out of nothing. And defensively, his athleticism causes major problems. Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann were able to score in bunches, but a lot of Lewis’ points were hustle plays.

This is an emotional game, I can only imagine the emotions Florida was going through during the game. We will be thinking of Keyontae and hoping for the best.

Play 2

Scenario: 4:25 Remaining in the 1st Half, FSU is on offense

Florida State took the lead on a Wyatt Wilkes baseline jumper, but this play felt more consequential.

A Nate Jack sighting? Before the final minutes of the game? What is this?

A bucket is what it is. Really smart basketball from Jack. Gets the ball in the far corner, passes it back up the arc, then as his defender rotates up, he sprints to the opposite corner for what’s usually an easy look in this situation. Tyree Appleby did a great job of getting back into the play and being there on the contest. Credit to Jack for making this shot, this is a tough one.

I also don’t exactly know what Florida’s plan defensively is here. It acts as a zone, but Appleby was the one that had to chase Jack across instead of someone making it easier and switching.

This is the play that seemed to really spark something for FSU to close out the half, offensively.

Play 3

Scenario: You get a poster! And you get a poster!

There were so many unreal dunks, I decided to put them all in the same spot. So let’s start with Scottie Barnes.

Like I talked about earlier, Barnes was getting downhill when he wanted to. And he showed so much emotion, something rarely seen from FSU players. You could feel one of these dunks coming because he almost had one a few minutes before this one. He’s so quick for someone of his stature, Scottie Lewis is one of the best athletes in the country, and Barnes blew by him like it was nothing.

Then, we had a Scottie on Scottie crime.

Perfect example of turning defense into offense. Sardaar Calhoun hounds him up the floor, RayQuan Evans takes advantage of the loose ball-handling, then Barnes displays his athleticism with a crazy finish. Neither of these two were the best dunk of the day.

MJ Walker. No other words. Just… MJ WALKER. With violence.  Then the step-over. You thought Trent Forrest’s dunk over Jordan Nwora was disrespectful, Forrest didn’t Allen Iverson him though. Just shows the passion and emotion in this rivalry. Imagine the Tucker Center at full capacity for all of these plays, but this play in particular. Place would have lost their mind.

Florida State will move on to face Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, a team fresh off beating Kentucky and Nebraska (it’s a very weird team).

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