FSU wins the Emerald Coast Classic: 6 Game-Changing Plays

What a fun, ugly weekend of college basketball for Florida State, but it ended in a new trophy.

First of all, what a tournament. Every game finished with a difference of 3 points.

Florida State 60 – Tennessee 57

Purdue 59 – VCU 56

Tennessee 72 – VCU 69

Florida State 63 – Purdue 60

Phenomenal scheduling, a lot of credit goes to the tournament makers for setting this schedule.

On Friday Night, FSU took down the previously undefeated Tennessee Volunteers 60-57. Like I predicted, this was a sloppy, low scoring game, but FSU dominated the game despite the final score; they never let Tennessee tie or take the lead all game. The two teams combined for 41 fouls and 34 turnovers, and shot 58 total free throws. Even as the lead started dwindling towards the end, FSU seemed to have good control over the score, just looked a little suspect against the press.

I was a little worried about how fast Tennessee was able to score at the end, scoring 10 points in about a minute, but FSU still found a way to win on Friday, and that’s all that matters.

This whole weekend was going to be defensively-minded anyways, but no team scored more than 72 points all weekend.

Some box score notes before talking about Saturday

Trent Forrest wasn’t quite himself against Tennessee, going just 3/11 and 8 turnovers. Both the inefficiency and the turnovers are uncharacteristic of him.

FSU was rough from the FT line, going just 19/29 (65.5%). The ‘Noles have shot above 78% against every team not from Tennessee, but in this game and Chattanooga (64.7%), weird things have been happening from the free throw line.

Devin Vassell once again provided big shot after big shot. He is going to be a pro player at some point, but enjoy him while you’ve got him for now. Vassell led the team with 13 points, as well as 5 rebounds and 3 steals. This man is seriously one of the best players in the country, let alone the ACC.

The Freshmen tandem of Patrick Williams and Balsa Koprivica had so many highlight plays throughout the game. The staff is starting to trust these two more, and they’re playing with more confidence because of it. These two combined for 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals (more on one of these later).

Florida State finished with 13 steals as a team, and Tennessee turned it over 21 times. The ‘Noles are really coming together defensively, and had the 4th ranked defense heading into the Purdue game, according to KenPom.

Saturday Night, vs Purdue

Saturday night was a much more back and forth affair, and even going into OT. The score was tied 11 times, and the lead changed ten times. Neither team could shoot from outside, with FSU going 1/17 and Purdue going 5/24 from distance.

The offenses in general were lackluster. FSU was 22/58 (37.9%) with 13 turnovers and Purdue was 21/62 (33.9%) with 24 turnovers. The fact Purdue was in this game was because they had more offensive rebounds and hit more 3s, even if they didn’t hit a lot. Purdue combined for 18 offensive rebounds, but only converted them into 15 second chance points (Florida State had 14), but a lot of those could have been avoided.

Where Florida State won this game was winning the turnover battle and getting to the free throw line more. Florida State turned Purdue’s 24 turnovers in 21 points, while Purdue turned FSU’s 13 turnovers into just 7 points. That’s a huge disparity, especially in a defensive battle like this. The ‘Noles weren’t great from the FT line, going just 18/25, but they made more free throws than Purdue attempted (13/17 for 76.5%, way above their 63.6% coming into the game). Florida State should have had even more free throws than they were given, as Matt Haarms was going over the back on a lot of rebounds and the officials were letting it go. Had that been Christ Koumadje or Michael Ojo, they’d have been fouls.

Florida State didn’t even make a field goal in OT. All of their points were from the free throw line and they STILL WON THE GAME. That is incredible; finding a way to win is more important than how you win.

Trent Forrest bounced back in a big way against Purdue, finishing with a team high 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and just 2 turnovers in 39 minutes. Whenever the team needed a bucket, he was able to drive to the basket and get it, just like last season’s game. Time after time, he got tough finishes in traffic and getting and-ones. This was an impressive outing.

Devin Vassell, who was named Emerald Coast Classic MVP, finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He hit the last two free throws that put Florida State up 3 with just 1.0 left and it essentially put the game on ice.

RaiQuan Gray may have been cold from the field, going just 2/10, but made up for it defensively with 4 steals. Patrick Williams added 3 steals as well. In fact, only three players who logged minutes for FSU didn’t finish with a steal, just another example of how superb the defense was for the majority of the night.

Onto the plays.

Game 1, Play 1

Scenario: 11:44 remaining in the second half

Remember when I said Patrick Williams had some highlight plays? Yeah, he baptized someone on Friday.

Let’s look at the steal since that’s what started the play. His natural instincts told him to leave his man in the corner… which usually isn’t the right call, especially in this scenario.

The frame above is when he made his mind up that he was going to double team the ball-handler. I don’t know if those are instincts or boldness, but it paid off. By the time the ball-handler turned his back (never do this for longer than a fast spin move), Williams is right on him and pokes the ball loose.

If the Tennessee player doesn’t turn around, it’s an easy lob.

Instead, he turns around, Williams gets the steal, posters someone, doesn’t celebrate, and gets back on defense to find his man. This is the perfect player for Coach Hamilton.

Game 1, Play 2

Scenario: 40.7 seconds remaining, FSU is in half-court offense

Malik Osborne has been such an important X-factor thus far. He does so much for this team that doesn’t get noticed in the box score. This one did though. Trent Forrest drove right and put up a shot that should’ve been brought down by a Volunteer.

Osborne grabbed this rebound. Without getting an over the back call. Super impressive stuff from a guy that was supposed to be on the perimeter this season. It’s very likely that if he doesn’t grab this rebound, Tennessee goes down to hit a 3 and tie it.

Game 1, Play 3

Scenario: 23.6 seconds remaining, Purdue is inbounding

I knew the time would come when I have to explain FSU’s baseline out of bounds defense, so here we are. Let’s take a look at the alignment.

It’s essentially a slanted 1-3-1. The goal is to force the ball to the corner, which happened here. Once the ball is in the corner, the defender guarding the ball and the one in the corner will trap that man, which again happened here. The rotations then go as follows: the man at the free throw line takes the closest offensive player on the perimeter, the big will watch the man inbounding, and the man on the opposite block will split the difference of the other two players.

Tennessee made it easy for Vassell to split the difference, as they both went to the top of the key.

Forrest reacted on the pass to the closest defender, and the Tennessee player panicked and threw it to the next player he saw, which Vassell read and broke on the pass. Beautiful execution of this defense.

Now, onto Purdue (excuse the grainier photos, had to use a different method of getting the screencaps since CBS doesn’t put replays up like ESPN does).

Game 2, Play 1

Scenario: 8:27 remaining, FSU is inbounding

Florida State struggled from 3 all night, but they got a big one when they really needed one.

FSU used this alignment to get MJ Walker open for 3 by pinching the two bigs around him as he curls towards Trent Forrest, which creates an open look from outside and he splashes it.

For just an inbounds pass to shot, this is about as open as one could get. Walker tied the game up here, after Purdue came out in the second half and opened the score up.

Game 2, Play 2

Scenario: 5:00 remaining, Purdue player picks up his dribble

There’s one thing you should never do against aggressive defenses: pick up your dribble 25-feet from the basket. Eric Hunter Jr dribbles down the court, goes to make a pass, but the action he wants in the paint isn’t open, so now he’s scrambling for an option.

Florida State plays all passing lanes perfectly as they’re taught as RaiQuan Gray sits back playing free safety.

Then, as Gray’s man moves to the top of they key, Turk recognizes the pass about to be made and makes a beeline for the ball and gets there just in time.

This steal and subsequent dunk capped an 8-0 run for Florida State, and put them in the driver’s seat to win the game, even if it still came down to the wire.

Game 2, Play 3

Scenario: 45.0 seconds remaining, Trent Forrest crosses half court with the ball

Trent Forrest. AKA The Boiler Killer.

Last season, he did this against Purdue.

This season, he does this against Purdue.

Forrest takes on Purdue’s 7’3” shot blocking monster, and finishes through contact (should have been an and-one).

I’m tired of seeing/hearing he’s not clutch and can’t handle these situations, it’s clearly not true. Whenever he wanted to get a bucket tonight, he got it or he was triple teamed. Just a great game from Forrest, and a great way to head into overtime.

There were a few defensive possessions in overtime I thought about using for a 7th play, but they were so hectic I wouldn’t even know how to describe them. All the stops in the final minute came down to will and determination, and a nice tap out to prevent an offensive rebound in the final seconds with only a one point lead.

This was a huge weekend for Florida State, as they picked up two great non-conference wins that will have major implications come March. They’ve already shown they can be a tournament team while still having a ton of room for growth as the season progresses.

Florida State receives no breaks and will take on Indiana in Bloomington as a part of the ACC/B1G Challenge, on Tuesday December 3rd at 9pm on ESPN2.

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