It's the final day of the regular season for Florida State, and they're looking to finish .500 in ACC play when it really didn't look like they would get there for a while. Getting unlikely wins in their last two against Virginia and Notre Dame gives them some confidence heading into this game before the ACC Tournament.
These two played each other in early January, which feels like a lifetime ago. It was also the game Malik Osborne hurt his ankle in, something none of us thought would be too serious at the time. Instead, it was the beginning of a long string of injuries for Florida State that continues to plague this team. Osborne would eventually be ruled out for the season, which is a shame because he was playing so well in his senior season.
This is an opportunity to tie the all-time series record against NC State. Currently, the Wolfpack lead 30-29, but FSU has won four straight in the series and 7 of the last 8. NC State last won in Tallahassee in January 2014.
This game will be at 2pm EST on ESPN, live from the Donald L Tucker Center in Tallahassee, FL.
NC State has not had the greatest of seasons, as you can tell by their conference record. They've won just four games since December 12, and have lost 9 of their last 10 games dating back to January 9. For the most part, they're scoring really well, they just can't defend anybody. They're allowing their opponents to score 78.4 PPG across these last 10 games, and allowing 75.9 PPG overall in ACC play. The loss of Manny Bates early in the year has severely impacted this team's ability to defend at the rim.
Since these two teams have played before, we'll break down the first game a little more.
What Went Well: For NC State, it was the Dereon Seabron and Terquavion Smith show. The two combined for 55 of NC State's 81 points, and no one else was even in double figures. Seabron was able to get to his right hand and get downhill pretty much whenever he wanted, and he was simply more athletic and hustling more than anyone guarding him. Smith was doing the opposite and lighting it up from 3-point land. He was 7/13 overall from deep, including a half court buzzer beater to end the game. Smith is able to fire with no space at all, but FSU was making life easy for him from distance.
What Didn't Go Well: NC State couldn't stop anything at the rim. FSU was 23/42 on 2-point shots, and they were consistently attacking Ebenezer Dowuona whenever they could. Jericole Hellems was dealing with foul trouble too, and he usually has a big impact on the team's ability to score. They also got killed on the glass, with FSU grabbing 13 offensive rebounds on 28 total missed shots. Dowuona had just 3 rebounds, which is not something you want to see out of your starting big man playing 29 minutes.
What Needs To Change: If NC State wants to win, they're going to have to limit FSU's chances at the rim and contest more on the glass. Since FSU doesn't have Osborne or McLeod down low in this game (they combined for 8 in the first game). Florida State hasn't been the best offensive team this season, but NC State's defense has been a leaky faucet all season. They're going to have to find a way to get stops.
Because it's senior night, I'm going to pick my favorite plays from each senior over the course of their Florida State career, and we'll go in order of games played at FSU.
Justin is a guy that the team asked be given the last remaining scholarship, which shows you the kind of impact he has off the court. Giving him a moment like this shot, his first made 3 since December 2019 (also against Clemson), while in a tightly contested game, is a lot of hard work paying off.
There were a lot of plays I could've chosen especially given how many he's played in this season. The double-double against Wake Forest, him being the best player on the floor against Virginia... but this block... it was the perfect ending to a perfect game for Florida State. The fact Coach Hamilton even put the walk-ons in against Louisville was so great.
This just happened, but it's so funny. Ngom has always played with a little flair and outward expression, and this just took it to another level. He's made a lot of strides over his two seasons in Tallahassee, even if he was hurt for a lot of this season.
I was just as surprised as you were to find out Osborne has played in fewer career games than RayQuan Evans. It's something about games against Louisville. There's always more passion, more energy, more talking... and Osborne slammed the door shut with this alley-oop finish. He's another guy where there's a number of plays you could choose just because he wears his heart on his sleeve.
It could only be this one. He's had a few big shots this season, but none bigger than this shot to send the game to OT against Duke. Evans has had as rough of a season as one could go through, having lost his brother and playing through knee injuries, but he has represented Florida State as well as anyone.
Wilkes was a tough guy to choose, but he was on fire this entire Notre Dame game. This was his third of five total made 3s, the most in his career. You could tell he was feeling it after this shot.
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To know why this is my favorite comes from years of seeing him practice and work on his game. He was never the greatest ball-handler. His was yelled at many times in practice to stop dribbling at his feet. For him to go away from the ball screen to his right hand, cross a guy over and leave him in the dust, and finish with an emphatic dunk is development at its finest. There's probably a clutch 3 he hit somewhere that I could've put here instead, but this was a more personal one.
Anthony Polite returned last game against Notre Dame, but still had a brace on his right wrist. He was able to dribble with it from time to time, but it will be something to monitor.
Caleb Mills should be due back any game now, it'd be nice if it was this game so he could shake off some rust before he's needed in the ACC Tournament. He's considered a game-time decision.
Matthew Cleveland missed the Notre Dame game with a non-COVID related virus. He's questionable for this game.
Malik Osborne is out for the season, though I wouldn't be surprised to see him try and dress out so he can check in real quick, someone foul, and he checks back out. He deserves the ovation if this is his last game in Tallahassee.
Cam'Ron Fletcher had surgery on his thumb and will be out for whatever games are left for FSU.
Naheem McLeod is out for the season.
For NC State...
Manny Bates is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Ernest Ross is out for the season with an ankle injury.
Greg Gantt is out after a hernia surgery, and they're looking towards getting him a medical RS.
G: Justin Lindner
G: RayQuan Evans
G: Anthony Polite
F: Wyatt Wilkes
C: Tanor Ngom/Harrison Prieto
G: Terquavion Smith
G: Casey Morsell
F: Jericole Hellems
F: Dereon Seabron
F: Ebenezer Dowuona
Seabron had 32 points in the first game between these two, and he can't be allowed to have that kind of impact again. He was getting to his right hand whenever he wanted, and is athletic enough to blow by almost anyone if you give him that kind of crease. I wouldn't be surprised to see FSU give him a little extra attention.
NC State doesn't necessarily have to shoot the 3 well to win games, though it'd certainly help. In the first game between these two, the Wolfpack shot 12/27 from 3, and 7/13 of those were Terquavion Smith. Smith has taken 243 total 3s this season, and has made 91 of those. He TAKES eight 3s per game, and he cannot be given any space.
This one is for the fans. Show up and support these seniors, some of which have been apart of some of the greatest teams in FSU history. Lindner and Prieto have been here for six seasons, Polite and Wilkes for five... these guys deserve the right send-off for giving what they have to this program. And then for Malik Osborne, RayQuan Evans, and Tanor Ngom, they came in from other schools, made FSU their home. The impact they've left on the program cannot be understated.
Florida State sits as 7.5-points favorites, with an over/under of 146.
NC State isn't that good, but they'd love to play spoiler on senior day. And the seniors may play more minutes than they usually do just because it is senior day. I still think FSU wins this though. Could this be their first double-digit ACC win of the year? There's a chance, but logic says probably not.
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