Florida State is now on a 6-game losing streak, the longest the program has had in ACC play since 2005. This has seriously become the lowest of lows of a season that no one expected. At this point, this season will completely be erased from my memory unless they find a way to beat Duke at Duke or win the ACC Tournament. There are some things that I will suggest FSU needs to do going forward to get themselves prepared for the ACC Tournament, but things only got even tougher for the team with Caleb Mills going down against UNC.
These two teams played a little less than two weeks ago at Clemson, with the Tigers coming out on top. It’s also the last we saw of Anthony Polite and Naheem McLeod in a game. FSU had chances killed to win that game, but a 5-second call on an inbounds with 2 minutes left pretty much any chance of that happening. We thought things might get better after this. News flash, they did not.
This game will be at 7pm on… Bally Sports… live from the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Clemson Tigers (12-13, 4-10) Breakdown
Clemson hasn’t won a game since beating FSU almost two weeks ago, and man they have had some lows, bottoming out with David Collins taking out a Duke player on a fastbreak that led to him being suspended for a game. Outside of losing to Georgia Tech though, it hasn’t really been any bad losses: UNC, Duke, and Notre Dame. They just need something to get back in the swing of things… so playing a beaten up FSU may be exactly what they need.
The Tigers won the first matchup 75-69 in a game FSU shot themselves in the foot repeatedly. We’ll go into it more later, but it was a fairly close game until the last 4 minutes of the first half, so FSU had to scrap its way back into the game. By the time they got close, they couldn’t really make the plays necessary to take advantage.
Because these two teams have already played, we’ll just talk about the first game in more detail.
What Went Well: For Clemson, it was rebounding. They were able to out-rebound FSU 37-24 in a game where Naheem McLeod went down early with his broken hand. They also had phenomenal bench play, with Naz Bohanon, Alex Hemenway, and Nick Honor combining for 32 points on 12/19 shooting from the floor. Usually, we see FSU teams dominate with its bench play, but in this one it was really Clemson. Honor in particular is a player that stands out in my mind from having a big impact in that game.
PJ Hall also had a really big performance with 15 points and 7 rebounds, but it was really his energy that got everyone going. Some guys just find a way to get the whole team going, and Hall does it by screaming, beating everyone down the floor, and thumping his chest. He’s just one of those kind of guys, and he was able to do it in this one. He did a great job of attacking the rim and get to the free throw line, which is always tough for momentum when someone can continuously get the free throw line.
What Didn’t Go Well: Really the only thing that didn’t work for Clemson was Al-Amir Dawes. He had 4 points on just 2/9 shooting, and produced an offensive rating of just 54, which is not ideal. He also had a team high 3 turnovers. He can be a really good player, but just a rough outing in the first one. Clemson also had a really tough time guarding Caleb Mills… but they won’t have to worry about it in this one.
What Needs to Change: Florida State has to defend the 3 a little better, rebound the ball a LOT better, and not let Clemson live at the free throw line. Clemson shot 21 free throws, which is way too many. While Dawes wasn’t able to get going from 3, the rest of the team was 6/9 from 3. FSU may have been able to limit the overall attempts, just have to limit the makes as well. We’ve already talked about the rebounding, but that absolutely has to get better in this one.
Florida State Seminoles (13-11, 6-8) Breakdown
I’ll be honest, with Caleb Mills now going down, I have no idea how Florida State is going to score. They are missing three of their top four scorers, and the one person who isn’t hurt (Matthew Cleveland) has really been struggling to be efficient from the floor. RayQuan Evans was able to start getting to the basket against UNC, and Cam’Ron Fletcher energy on offense against UNC was much needed.
The thing with Fletcher is he has been TERRIBLE in off-ball defense. He probably got beat backdoor 6 times against Carolina, so it’s hard to play a guy that’s giving up on much on defense as he’s giving on offense. He’s definitely a gambler, wanting to go for the steal as much as possible, but teams know that and bait him on it. They’ve been doing it all season. They’ll set him up and beat him backdoor. It’s mind-numbingly frustrating to watch happen in person. FSU may have stumbled onto something to help him out though.
At the end of the Pitt game, FSU broke out a matchup zone that seemed to help streamline some of its issues, mainly rotation issues. They then broke it out for most of the second half against UNC, and outscored UNC 50-32 in the second half. FSU needs to stick in this. A lot of the younger guys are used to playing zone from high school, and it helps them to stick in one area instead of trying to fly around and make plays. There are some things they have to fix, like the guards crashing down too hard to the level of the ball, but I think the pros outweigh the cons in this situation.
I don’t know if anyone realizes it, but they had 15 offensive rebounds against UNC. If they’re not going to score, at least get offensive the rebound. It’s a big reason why they were successful against Duke, and they are able to find some success in the second half against UNC with it.
One last thing to note with Mills going down, here are your healthy scholarship players that are actively practicing: RayQuan Evans, Jalen Warley, Matthew Cleveland, Wyatt Wilkes, Tanor Ngom, and Justin Lindner (and Harrison Prieto, but he’s not on a basketball scholarship). Everyone else is dealing with some kind of ailment that is keeping them from practicing.
Florida State added another one to the injury report as Caleb Mills will be out with an ankle injury he suffered against UNC. I don’t think the injury is too serious, but I don’t expect him to play in either game with week.
Malik Osborne is out for the season with an ankle injury.
Naheem McLeod is out for the season with a hand injury.
Initially, I thought Anthony Polite was out for the season after having wrist surgery, but I believe he’ll be able to come back next week. He’ll still be out for this one.
Cam’Ron Fletcher and John Butler are probable to play with ankle injuries.
For Clemson, David Collins was suspended for one game after a flagrant foul against Duke, but he should be reinstated for this one.
Hunter Tyson is out with a broken clavicle.
G: RayQuan Evans
G: Matthew Cleveland
F: Wyatt Wilkes
F: John Butler
C: Tanor Ngom
G: Chase Hunter
G: Al-Amir Dawes
G: David Collins
F: Ian Schieffelin
F: P.J. Hall
Keys to the Game
Clemson was able to win the first matchup in large part due to their efforts rebounding the ball, having outrebounded FSU 37-24 in the first one, while also collecting 10 offensive rebounds. Even if FSU got the rebound, they had a couple times where the ball would get poked free or pass it right back to Clemson. For the most part, FSU did a good job of protecting the ball, they just had really untimely turnovers that seemed to always break their back. If FSU can find a way to make this more even, they’ll have a chance of winning this one.
PJ Hall’s Impact
Florida State’s big-man rotation is less than ideal currently, and PJ Hall has been really good this season. Part of this ties back to the rebounding, but FSU has to get bodies on Hall (it really felt like he had more than 7 rebounds). I was at the game in Clemson, so I saw all the little things that weren’t on tv, like him talking to the crowd after the game. He has a way of getting the team and crowd energized that can’t really be overstated. The less of an impact he has, the worse the team will be overall.
Who is Scoring?
Florida State will be missing 3 of their top 4 scorers in this game, so the question is simple: who is scoring? Can Cam’Ron Fletcher fix his off-ball defense to make his offensive impact worth it, and will he continue to be extremely high effort on offense like against UNC? Can John Butler be more aggressive? Can John Butler be more aggressive? Can Matthe Cleveland get back to finishing at the rim at a high level? There’s a lot of ways to get there, but who knows if it’ll happen.
Florida State currently sits as 2-point favorites, with an over/under of 137.5.
The game is on Bally Sports, so naturally this game will be cursed. Neither of these teams have won in a while, so someone will break their streak. FSU has now reached the point where they have to prove me wrong, and just given how banged up they are, I just don’t know where the scoring is coming from.