Florida State shot just 69 percent from the free-throw line in the first seven games of the season.
After a two-week break due to COVID-19 and contact tracing, the Seminoles have shot 37 of 38 (97.4 percent) from the line in wins over NC State and North Carolina.
“We start off practice every day shooting free throws, about 10 or 15 minutes, just locking in,” said senior guard M.J. Walker, who is among the team leaders at 92 percent. “Making free throws is really just a mental thing.”
FSU had some games where free-throw attempts were a real struggle. The Seminoles made just 11 of 21 in an overtime win vs. Indiana, and a few games later were 16 of 26 in a home loss to UCF. Free throws could have salted away the win in regulation against the Hoosiers and would have made a comeback attempt against the Knights that much easier.
The improvement is clear and dramatic. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton has consistently said the Seminoles are developing and growing. And that includes shooting from the line.
“Hitting our free throws obviously was very, very important,” Hamilton said. “Earlier in the year we weren’t hitting free throws and I said I thought we were a good free-throw shooting team.”
The last two games have proven just that.
Here are a few other storylines to watch on Monday as FSU plays at Louisville, 7 p.m. on ESPN.
FSU had a break of more than two weeks due to COVID-19. And now the Seminoles play their third game in six days, this time on the road against No. 18 Louisville.
The Seminoles rarely play in the regular season with just one day between games, but this is a quirk of the schedule — especially with a flight in between. It may not seem like that big of a deal, especially considering FSU has played on back-to-back days in holiday tournaments or in an ACC Tournament.
But fatigue could be a factor on Monday, especially if Scottie Barnes (foot/ankle) is not available. Hamilton also said he arrived at the arena on Saturday not sure if Anthony Polite (stomach bug) and Walker (undisclosed, although Hamilton called it a “tweak”) would be able to play. While both did, it will be interesting to watch if Hamilton needs to limit minutes for Walker or Polite.
Senior guard RayQuan Evans has been quite good in his last two games, both starts, as FSU adjusts without Barnes as the starter vs. the Wolfpack and then in his absence vs. the Tar Heels. Evans is shooting 12 of 20 (60 percent) from the floor and 8 of 8 (100 percent) from the free-throw line while contributing six assists and four steals in the two games combined.
Stats of note
Walker enters the Monday night game with 931 career points.
Hamilton is going for his 75th win over a ranked team.
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