Florida State squeezes past Louisville on the road
The Florida State Seminoles played the second and final game of their road trip today against the Louisville Cardinals. Both teams have ranked at the very bottom of the ACC this season, causing the match to bring hunger from both parties to secure a conference victory. The Noles were able to do just that after securing an 81-78 victory.
Player of the game: Matthew Cleveland had a slight advantage over Cameron Corhen, due to his impact and maturity on both sides of the floor. Cleveland finished the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds. It was his 17th straight game in double-figures, which is the second-longest streak in the ACC.
Head coach Leonard Hamilton went with a starting lineup of Caleb Mills, Jalen Warley, Darin Green Jr., Cleveland, and Corhen.
It was a successful offensive showing from both sides to start the game, as inside cuts led to easy scores. The Noles started with a 9-4 lead two minutes into the game. Green was on fire right off the tip, shooting a perfect 3-3 from the field. With Green’s eight points, Florida State headed into the first timeout up 14-5.
Freshman Chandler Jackson was the first off the bench for the Noles, replacing Warley. Naheem McLeod and Baba Miller followed after there was clear fatigue from the starting lineup on the defensive end. Jackson really opened the floor for the Seminoles, but an injury timeout pushed him toward the sideline after he was hit in the neck area.
With 11:54 remaining in the first half, the Noles held a 20-14 lead. Both teams cooled down in the scoring margin since their reserves took time to get accustomed to the speed. Louisville and Florida State were both courting relatively young rosters, but the Cardinals have been dealing with coaching and roster changes that have definitely deterred their development.
FSU’s ball movement was the name of the game, as they earned seven early assists. Louisville broke a three-minute scoring drought with minimal time left in the half, but the Seminoles kept poking at the lead, up 33-19 with 6:57 to go. The Cardinals simply had no chemistry to help them put the ball in the basket and run the necessary sets to pressure Florida State.
At the 4:55 mark, the Noles gave up their first turnover of the game. Despite an atrocious performance from the Cardinals’ defense they were creeping at the Seminoles’ lead. FSU had given up six three-point shots, helping Louisville stay in the game with weak on-ball defense.
Florida State’s 13-point lead was cut to six when at the two-minute mark. They went into halftime up 45-36. The Noles played a solid half, but the score was way too close for comfort. FSU was leading in nearly every statistical category, aside from their biggest weakness of defending the three.
The Nole started the half with a 6-0 run, which largely came from a lackadaisical effort from the Cardinals. Soon after Florida State was 0-5 from the field on a two-minute scoring drought. Louisville went on a 6-0 run of their own, scoring three straight field goals.
A media timeout brought both teams to the sideline, with FSU leading the way 53-42. The momentum was on Florida State’s side since they were the more consistent team throughout the half.
The Seminoles carried a 61-50 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining. Louisville was struggling to find open gaps on the offensive end and were constantly beaten to their spot with shaky help-side defense. The Cardinals forced just four turnovers in three-quarters of the game, helping FSU grab 17 points off turnovers and 16 assists.
Cleveland secured a blocked shot after a drained three from Green, giving Florida State a chance to start closing the door at a potential comeback. The Noles had five players in double-figures with 10 minutes left in the game. They were shooting a valid 42% from three-point land, but most of the damage came from points in the paint.
Louisville kept punching their way back into the game, which led to a timeout from Hamilton and his staff. The Cardinals were on a 9-0 run, while the Seminoles hadn’t scored in nearly three minutes. They pushed that to an 11-2 run in a span of four minutes, finally putting real pressure on the Noles.
FSU’s 17-point second-half lead was deleted. The Seminoles handed Louisville and 15-2 run that gave them life. With 2:35 left in the game, Florida State led 74-72. Both teams had abysmal defensive showings, leading to a shot-for-shot ending. After a couple of free throws from the Noles, they came away with the victory.
The Seminoles now stand as the No. 9 team in the ACC, with a +10000 chance to make the NCAA tournament, according to DraftKings.
Next game: Florida State is set to host the Syracuse Orange on Feb. 8 at 7:00 ET. The game will be featured on ESPNU. Betting lines will soon be released, through Draftkings.