It was hard to know what kind of performance the Florida State men’s basketball team was going to have on Wednesday night.
Going through half a month without actually playing a game is an obstacle college basketball teams have never faced until this season. But it wasn’t just that the Seminoles had 15 days in between contests; they weren’t even able to practice for nearly half of that time.
As head coach Leonard Hamilton said on Wednesday night, “we were looking out the window for seven or eight of those days.”
And yet all FSU did, upon returning to the court, was have its best offensive performance of the Hamilton Era in a 105-73 victory over N.C. State.
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“There’s no doubt it’s extremely challenging (to go that long without playing),” the FSU head coach said. “It’s more difficult to get your guys mentally focused for them to have the level of confidence that it takes to be successful. Right now, we’re still trying to find ourselves and we’re not playing [during that break], we’re just practicing against each other all the time.
“So, all they hear is us criticize them, trying to motivate them, and that’s the challenge. You have a tendency sometimes to feel some kind of way when you don’t get a chance to go out and prove that you’re learning what the coaches are trying to teach you. … But that’s the new normal. We can’t have a pity party. That’s what we’ve got to deal with. Somebody’s going to deal with it efficiently. Somebody’s not.”
Well, the Seminoles definitely fell into the first category on Wednesday night.
Not only did they score their most points against an ACC team since a 109-61 win over Clemson on Feb. 5, 2017, but they also posted their all-time best field goal percentage.
Florida State shot 70.7 percent from the field against the Wolfpack, besting the old mark of 66 percent in that Clemson game four years ago. The Seminoles were a perfect 11 of 11 from the free-throw line and 12 of 18 from 3-point range.
According to stat analyst Ken Pomeroy, it was FSU’s most efficient offensive performance since Hamilton became head coach in 2002. It was also the best field goal percentage by any team in an ACC game since 2000.
It was an historic performance.
All with a 15-day break in between games.
The Seminoles had three straight games postponed because of COVID-19 and had not taken the court against an opponent other than themselves since Dec. 29 at Clemson — a 77-67 loss to the Tigers. (Clemson, by the way, is now 9-1 and ranked No. 12 in the AP Top 25.)
“It was extremely frustrating for us (to not play for so long),” said senior guard Nathaniel Jack, who scored a career-high 18 in the win. “I feel like what kind of frustrated us the most was we came off a loss to Clemson. And then had 15 days harping on a loss. Of course, that bothered all of us. …
“I really feel like that left a bad taste in our mouths, and we knew that coming into this game that we couldn’t lose this game. So, I feel like that propelled our energy to an extremely high level.”
And the shots just kept falling and falling and falling.
Hamilton said after the game he was not pleased — at all — with the team’s defensive effort. Despite the lopsided final score, N.C. State shot a solid 44 percent from the floor and 42 percent from 3-point range — those marks are both higher than Hamilton would like to see.
And as he says every time his team plays, there is still plenty of room to grow. He’s still tinkering with rotations and trying to find the right mix of players on both ends of the court. He’s not there yet, he said.
On Wednesday night, it mattered not at all what he did.
Every lineup he tried, every rotation he used, just rained in shots from all over the court.
“I feel like the (layoff) benefitted us because we had more time to focus on the little details that we may have been struggling on,” said guard RayQuan Evans, who scored a career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting. “From the start of pregame practices, the guys had great energy and there was great communication. So, I just feel like we kind of picked up where we left off.”
Contact senior writer Corey Clark at [email protected] and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.
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