The problems with evaluating shot challenges are that, first, it’s a mostly subjective term and, second, the success is often evaluated retroactively, dependent on results. How do you define, as Coach Mark Turgeon said on Monday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference, what constitutes “closely contested?” More importantly, how do you measure whether a contested made basket resulted from poor closeouts or an un-guardable offensive move or something in between?
After Florida State crushed Maryland by 24 points on Sunday, there was a distinct difference in the postgame rhetoric surrounding how well the Terrapins guarded the perimeter, though one suspects this difference had something to do with the fact that the Seminoles made 16 three-pointers and forced Maryland to again fly home mulling over another bludgeoning.
Turgeon said 13 of those 16 makes were “closely contested.” Near the loading dock of the Tucker Center, as his weary teammates walked by, guard Dez Wells estimated 14. Nick Faust chalked it up to the Seminoles simply having a hot hand. “They just had a great shooting day behind the arc,” he said. Several Florida State players, though, were enthusiastic at how many open shots they got. Beat writer Alex Lee estimated half were uncontested, four were “highly contested” and four were “marginally contested.”
Semantics aside, the results spoke for themselves. The Seminoles led by 20 points at intermission — making 10 of 15 three-pointers in the first half — partially because they couldn’t seem to miss and partially because the Terps struggled defensively. Yes, they got hands in faces on many shots, but had Maryland rotated properly or helped quickly or been more aware, then perhaps some of those three-pointers aren’t even attempted.
“You get [upset] because they haven’t made threes all year, then there they are continually making them, making them, making them,” Turgeon said. “Some of it was bad defense, some of it was them making big-time shots. You get frustrated.”
To wit, the GIFs.
Ian Miller three-pointer, 15:08 remaining in the first half
Smart recognition by Miller, who finished with a game-high 20 points, including 17 in the first half, to inbounds the basketball quickly while Seth Allen (beneath the basket) gets caught looking away. Charles Mitchell shows to protect the drive, but Allen is too late to recover and Miller takes the handoff from Ojo for the open shot.
Devon Bookert three-pointer, 7:56 remaining in the first half
Roddy Peters dives too far under the screen, trying to anticipate the cut rather than trailing it, and gets caught jumping. Bookert recognizes this and doubles back. Again, both Peters and Shaq Cleare stuck a hand in his face, but if Peters doesn’t jump the screen, that shot never gets taken.
“They just made a lot of shots,” Turgeon said. “They made some guarded shots too now. But I think any coach in our league would tell you, you want Florida State shooting jump shots over a hand. They made them tonight.”
Ian Miller three-pointer, 5:42 remaining in the first half
During the coaches’ teleconference, Turgeon estimated Allen had “two to three weeks before he’s completely back.” Allen missed practice during the six-day window before Florida State, Turgeon said, and shot 0 for 8 in Tallahassee. Healthy or not, Allen can avoid plays like this, where he loses Miller in transition because he’s trying to intercept the pass. Miller, wisely enough, slides to the top of the key.
Since his return, Allen has provided consistent minutes off the bench – 21, 20, 20, 26, 22 – and his once-broken left foot didn’t feel sore afterwards, but Turgeon said he’s “got to play better defensively” and “got behind the 8-ball [because his] shot selection wasn’t great.”
Aaron Thomas three-pointer, 3:53 remaining in the first half
This three-pointer, the result of some aimless rotation and closing out, put the Seminoles up 18 points right around the first half’s final officials’ timeout. By this point, after Florida State’s absurd five-possession, five-three-pointer stretch, the game was over.
“It’s hard to stop the bleeding when they hit five threes in a row, and you’re closing out and hot hands and everything, “Wells said. “They’re just hitting threes like that. Games like this happen in the NBA too. Guys hit threes. That’s what’s going to happen when you’re playing against really, really good competition.
“It was their night. They hit a lot of tough shots. We didn’t hit a lot of shots. It was the same thing against Georgia Tech, when we played them. They didn’t hit a lot of shots and we hit a lot of shots. The ball could bounce either way. That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to basketball.”
Wells closed out onto Thomas and didn’t jump, something the junior did at least three times Sunday. Wells has gotten burned before on pump fakes, as have his teammates, and it wouldn’t surprise if Maryland wanted to make sure Wells stayed grounded and didn’t go flying into the stands in an overzealous moment.
Okaro White three-pointer, 2:24 remaining in the first half
Roddy Peters gets beat off the dribble, Evan Smotrycz helps and Faust bites on the pass fake. Not a lot to see.
“We wanted shots over a hand, which we thought we did effectively, but they just made tough ones,” Faust said, and the final two possessions of the first half revealed this just fine. Thomas missed with Wells in his face and Miller, with the shot clock expiring, was forced into a deep three-pointer that caromed off the back iron.
A few more observations from the game:
>> Cleare and Peters both can’t get beat on this play. Maybe one. But the ball-handler has a clear path to the hoop and, still, five Maryland defenders are within eight feet. Unsurprisingly, this possession resulted in an open three-pointer.
Maryland’s game plan clearly included sagging into the paint and recovering up on the exit pass, but Boris Bojanovsky shoots fewer than four times per game and probably doesn’t deserve this type of attention either.
>> Charles Mitchell looked bewildered after earning an offensive foul here, exhibiting the same bad body language many of his teammates have after unfavorable calls, but setting a screen with your elbow’s isn’t going to draw any favor from the referees. The burden of improvement falls on both sides, though; the Terps need their wings to get better at running their defender off screens, while Mitchell and his front-court mates need to improve at actually making contact with defenders, and not simply throwing elbows at passers-by.
>> Faust had a great game and his on-ball defense would be noticed a lot more of he had some help. The junior shot 5 for 7 from the field, had two thunderous dunks that ultimately got lost amid the disaster, and scored 15 points. Remove Faust’s seven points against Pittsburgh, which many saw as a regression from his midseason improvements, and he’s averaging 14.4 points on 55 percent shooting over the past five games.
>> This is a nice double-screen, double-roll action from Florida State and it features something the Terps haven’t done well this season – actually hitting the man cutting toward the hoop.
Here Florida State guard Ian Miller comes off two high screens on the right wing. Both screeners — first Jarquez Smith then Ojo — roll to the hoop off an up screen from Okaro White. The Seminoles probably knew Turgeon likes his big men to hedge hard off screens, which both Mitchell and Shaq Cleare do here. The problem is Allen fights through the two screens fairly well, so when Mitchell tries to recover, he runs into White’s up screen, which freed up Ojo for a lob.
Because he can’t decide whether to mark Smith or handle Ojo, Layman also tries to help up and feebly swats at the lob pass, far away from the rim.
>> The game, summarized in one GIF. Probably could have put this first and saved you the time.