Florida State struggled to make 3-pointers for much of the season. But the Seminoles have made significant improvements in that area in the last six games.
The Seminoles made 13 3-pointers in the 99-81 victory over Miami, the fourth time in six games that Florida State has made double-digit 3-pointers. Wyatt Wilkes was 3 of 6 from 3-point range, while Patrick Williams was 2 of 3, MJ Walker was 2 of 4, Malik Osborne was 2 of 2 and walk-on Travis Light went 2 of 2.
Part of the success is better dribble penetration – guards or forwards driving toward the basket and drawing the attention of a second defender, which often leaves jump shooters open on the perimeter.
“Coach was telling us the percentages go up the more we get drive-and-kick shots,” Walker said. “I think we have one of the best shooting teams in the country and when we find each other on the court, we get those rhythm shots, we knock them down.”
Drive-and-kick has in part helped the 3-point percentage. But it’s also stunning to see where FSU was two months ago, averaging 32 percent on 3s through Dec. 4 to now 36.5 percent – which ranks 36th in Division I – second in the ACC only to Louisville’s 40.5 percent from beyond the arc.
FSU went through some ugly stretches of the season, including a 3 of 11 night vs. Tennessee and then a 1 of 17 game against Purdue. But now the 3-pointers have been a big part of wins at home or on the road. In recent weeks, FSU made 10 or more 3s in road wins (Miami and Virginia Tech) as well as home victories (Notre Dame and Miami).
Wilkes is among the hottest of ‘Noles, drilling 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) of 3-pointers in his last five games.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton isn’t fond of the quick turnaround with games on a Saturday and then a Monday. The Seminoles did it last weekend, winning a road game over Virginia Tech before returning home to knock off North Carolina on an ESPN broadcast Monday night.
Now the situation is similar: FSU picked up a home win over Miami on Saturday and travels to Duke for a Monday night game (7 p.m. on ESPN). The showdown of top-10 teams is magnified by the difficulties of playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium, although Hamilton was able to rest Trent Forrest and Devin Vassell more on Saturday in hopes of them being fresher against the Blue Devils.
FSU is also road-tested, having won at Florida, Louisville and Miami. Even though there have been some tough road losses – Pittsburgh, Indiana and Virginia – FSU has battled throughout in those matchups.
“We played a lot of tough games on the road,” Hamilton said. “And in order to prepare for those road games, you have to come up with an approach that’s realistic. We try to teach our guys – Let’s just stay in the moment and let the next practice be one that you demonstrate how much you want to be successful. And we try not to worry about the road games and the home games. We want them to worry about that which they can control.
“And what I’m seeing with this team, that philosophy and that focus is causing them to grow and mature and make the progress I think that’s necessary for us to hopefully at some point reach our full potential.”
FSU won the rebounding battle 46-24 against Miami. The Seminoles’ 30 defensive rebounds ties for the seventh-most in an ACC game. FSU’s 30 defensive rebounds is the most since pulling down 30 at Wake Forest in Feb. 2016.
No. 8 FSU (20-3, 10-2 ACC) at Duke (20-3, 10-2)
Time/TV: Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
FSU potential starters: 6-foot-6 G Devin Vassell (13.5 ppg., 5.3 rpg.), 6-5 G Trent Forrest (11.3 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 4.2 assists), 6-5 G M.J. Walker (10.8 ppg.), 6-9 F Malik Osborne (5.8 ppg., 4.7 rpg.), 6-8 F RaiQuan Gray (6.3 ppg., 3.6 rpg.).
FSU reserves: 6-6 G Anthony Polite (6.3 ppg.), 6-8 F Patrick Williams (8.6 ppg., 3.6 rpg.), 7-foot C Dominik Olejniczak (3.4 ppg., 2.2 rpg.), 7-foot-1 Balsa Koprivica (5.5 ppg., 2.5 rpg.), 6-6 F Wyatt Wilkes (3.9 ppg.).
Duke potential starters: 6-10 C Vernon Carey (17.8 ppg., 8.8 rpg.), 6-3 G Tre Jones (15.8 ppg., 6 assists), 6-6 G Cassius Stanley (12.5 ppg., 4.6 rpg.), 6-9 F Matthew Hurt (10.4 ppg., 3.7 rpg., team-high 34 3s), 6-6 F Wendell Moore (7.8 ppg., 4.1 rpg.).