How Florida State Won And What It MeansPosted by KCarpenter on January 16th, 2012
Let’s be clear about something right from the start: Yes, Deividas Dulkys probably had the best game of his life, but even if he had performed at 40% of the level he managed Saturday, Florida State would have still won this game against North Carolina. The eight made three-pointers? Yes, that’s fluky and it contributed to the massive margin, but the Seminoles would have won the game even with an average shooting night by Dulkys. For the sake of a conversation that goes beyond me marveling at the transcendent performance by the Lithuanian guard, let’s put aside his monster game and imagine that Florida State just won by say 14 points. That’s still an impressive win and it’s worth pointing out that this is the kind of win we have been expecting from Florida State all season even if not by this margin and not against this opponent.
The Seminoles’ hallmark is defense, and the defense has mostly been there all season. The signature of the defense is fairly simple, a locked-down perimeter, a tough interior, and scads and scads of forced turnovers. North Carolina shot 4-of-21 from the three-point line, a figure that’s significant because it demonstrates two things about the Florida State offense: how good they are at defending the three and how skilled they are at baiting opponents into trying to take it. Remember, North Carolina, coming into Saturday, shot a lower proportion of threes than all but a handful of teams in Division I. Baiting Kendall Marshall into trying at least five perimeter shots should be on any teams to-do list when it comes to beating the Tar Heels. In general, the defense played Marshall very cleverly, defending physical and close when he had the ball, forcing seven turnovers while giving Marshall a lot more space off-ball, leading to relatively inefficient catch-and-shoot opportunities. It was a perfectly scouted and well-executed defensive plan that’s honestly not too different from the sterling defensive performances the team has been putting on all season.
The difference for this game, however, was simply good Seminole offense. Many of Dulkys’s open looks were created in the simplest way possible: Swinging the ball from one side to the other while setting massive and brutal pin-down screens to free shooters. Meanwhile, the rest of the offense executed the sets as best they could while taking care to seize scoring opportunities off of turnovers. It worked splendidly. One point of concern is that while forcing 22 Carolina turnovers, Florida State wasn’t able to really leverage that impressive number into a significant possession advantage, turning the ball back over to Carolina 17 times. That they were able to win despite this high turnover number is impressive, but it’s still the biggest sign of trouble for this Florida State team. If Leonard Hamilton‘s team can cut down the turnovers, they won’t have to rely nearly as much on great shooting to win games.
The long story made short is simple: It took them half the year to get there, but we are finally dealing with the Florida State team that we expected in the offseason. The defense is stout as ever and the offense is finally starting to click. There was a reason that almost everyone in the country picked Florida State as the clear #3 team in the ACC before a game was played, and you saw that reason on display Saturday. Dulkys may never have another shooting game like that in his life (though I wouldn’t bet against him), but, after a shaky start, Florida State is ready to take on the conference.