Florida State pulled off a stunning early season upset in Puerto Rico on Thursday night when they dominated no. 10 VCU.
The Seminoles lead throughout most of the evening, building a 12-point halftime lead and eventually pulling ahead by as much as 30 in the second half before cruising to an 85-67 win over the Rams.
“I thought our effort tonight was a result of the healthy respect that we have for the VCU program. They’ve done a tremendous job over the last four or five years – how they have branded themselves and how well they have played in tough situations," said FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton. "Evaluating them and trying to come up with a game plan, we knew we had to be at our very best in a lot of areas."
FSU played well on both ends of the court, but their defense was elite on Thursday night. For years Hamilton's Seminoles teams have prided themselves on playing top-notch defense. Against VCU, Florida State fans saw the return of the "junkyard D."
Virginia Commonwealth was held to just 29.3 shooting during the game. The Seminoles forced 14 turnovers, blocked six shots and made VCU rush their possessions for most of the game -- in turn forcing a lot of errors and offensive mistakes that kept the Rams from ever really getting things rolling on that end.
"Their players were very aggressive and overall they were obviously a much better team, tonight," said VCU head coach Shaka Smart. "I thought for us this was definitely a wakeup call or realization that we can’t just take the floor and be who we want to be, we’ve got to make it happen. We’ve got to get back to being more aggressive, but also playing with better discipline."
On the offensive end Florida State turned the ball over 25 times against VCU's fullcourt press, but they also managed to beat it with regularity too, shooting 53.7%. Seniors Okaro White and Ian Miller played exactly like a team's senior leaders should play in this sort of matchup, with Miller distributing the ball well against the press and White cleaning up underneath the basket.
“I think we can average a lot more points if we don’t have those turnovers in games," said Miller after the game. "We need to slow it down a bit, take our time and think things through sometimes. We get a bit sped up, but we’ll learn. We’re young and we’re still finding ourselves.”
Miller lead Florida State with a career-high 22 points and seven rebounds -- he also added four assists. White had 14 points and nine boards, Montay Brandon had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Devon Bookert also added 18 points.
It was not the most efficient effort FSU has turned in on the young season, but the offense looked potent, the team made good passes and the defense was suffocating. FSU made a statement on Thursday night.
"We’ve got a reputation of being a defensive team, but what we’ve done is try to play to the talent that we’ve had," said Hamilton. "Now we have a little different team and we’re trying to utilize the strengths of our basketball team.”
“Most of the teams that are rated high this early in the season, they are rated for what they did last year. And so, quite naturally, [despite the fact] we have been playing very good basketball for four years, we had to start over and regroup last year and weren’t quite as successful, so we get recognized for what we did last year. VCU went to the Sweet 16 and had a great season last year, so they’re getting their recognition. That’s one thing good about college basketball; you have the chance to earn your rightful place. That’s what our goals are right now. It’s too early to think about rankings, we try to keep it in perspective. We want to be in the power place at the end of the season. This is one victory, one game, and we’ve got a whole lot more to go.”
Florida State gets Michigan in the semifinal round of the Puerto Rico tipoff on Friday night.
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