Welcome back: FSU shreds NC State in return to court

Florida State played for the first time in 2021, showing no signs of rust as the Seminoles turned in one of the best first halves in program history.

Senior RayQuan Evans earned the start — his first of the season — and had a career-high 22 points as FSU routed short-handed NC State 105-73 on Wednesday. Evans had 13 first-half points, starting in place of Scottie Barnes, and easily surpassed his prior career-high of nine points.

M.J. Walker scored 19 points, making 6 of 7 shots (including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc). Nate Jack had 18 points, drilling 7 of 8 shots and 4 of 5 three-pointers. He had 17 points in FSU’s prior seven games combined.

Fans will be hard-pressed to see a Florida State team play better in one half than this: The Seminoles led 57-32, shooting 20 of 28 (71.4 percent) from the floor, 7 of 10 (70 percent) from 3-point range and 10 of 10 (100 percent) from the free-throw line. Whoa. For historical reference, FSU’s 57 points matched the most in program history in a first half of an ACC game. The Seminoles also had 57 in the first half vs. Wake in Feb. 1993.

“I thought that it showed we were hungry to get out and play,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I was really impressed with the unselfish spirit our kids played with, the energy. We had one of those exceptional nights where the ball was falling. We were moving the ball, making the extra pass. We got a lot of penetrate, kick-out shots.”

And it really didn’t stop. On the night, FSU finished 41 of 58 (70.7 percent) from the floor, 12 of 18 from 3-point range (66.7 percent) and 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. For an FSU team that had been struggling at times to score, and was inconsistent at the line, this was an impressive night.

it was also the first time FSU dropped 100 points on an ACC team since a Jan. 2018 win over Miami, 103-94.

“I thought they were incredible tonight,” NC State coach Kevin Keatts said. “On this given night they would have beaten most teams in the country. I thought they played out of their minds making 12 3-pointers. … Probably the best team that we have played in our early season.”

Any concerns over COVID-19 cases or players in quarantine were mostly dashed early. The Seminoles missed three games (Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh) but returned to the court for the first time since Dec. 29 and used 11 players in the first half. The only regular who did not play early was freshman center Quincy Ballard, who played in the second half.

FSU improved to 6-2, 2-1 ACC. NC State dropped to 6-4, 2-3.

Was this break one that helped the Seminoles rest up, mentally and physically, but also re-calibrate? It’s clear the Seminoles were fresh and conditioning was not a factor, although they were able to substitute at will and led by more than 20 points for much of the game.

Barnes did not start but still played 10 minutes in the first half. He had 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting with three rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes. He left the game in the second half after colliding with an NC State player.

Hamilton said Barnes had a “strain” in practices leading up to the game, which led to the decision to start Evans.

RaiQuan Gray was able to drive seemingly with ease, scoring seven quick points on 3 of 5 shooting. NC State went with a smaller four-guard lineup, often by necessity due to injury, and Gray was a mismatch.

The Wolfpack went without forward Manny Bates, who was injured in the last game against Miami, as well as forward Jericole Holmes (the team’s leading scorer at 12 points per game).

FSU’s previous high for a first-half scoring output this season was 45 points against Florida.

For the complete box score, click here.

Next up for FSU is a home game with North Carolina on Saturday (noon on ESPN).

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