Using a hot start in which they jumped out to a 16-2 lead, No. 10 Florida State held on from there as they outlasted No. 12 Louisville for a 73-68 ACC home win.
The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1) led for the entire game as this was a one-point game with under two minutes left with a chance for Louisville to take the lead.
Florida State ultimately held on as I have five takeaways from this one.
1. Jonathan Isaac is getting comfortable
Florida State’s stud freshman registered 16 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday, making a number of key late plays on both ends of the floor. Isaac has put together three straight double-doubles and it looks like the 6-foot-10 forward is getting very comfortable with this team. The Seminoles become so dangerous with Isaac playing like this because they already have talented scorers like Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann and Xavier Rathan-Mayes around him.
Isaac fits in very well alongside those guys because he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be productive like Malik Beasley did last season. At 6-foot-10, Isaac can rebound both ends of the floor, is a menace defending multiple positions and he’s making tougher face-up plays on the offensive end. With Isaac playing this way, Florida State can reach a new level.
2. Louisville will be fine without Quentin Snider during his injury
When Florida State jumped out to a 16-2 lead before the first television timeout, it looked like Louisville was going to be in deep trouble. Credit first and foremost goes to Louisville for fighting back and making this a one-point game with under two minutes left. The Cardinals looked like they had no business taking a go-ahead shot with the way they played early.
It also showed that Louisville should be okay without point guard Quentin Snider during his injury. After dismantling Clemson at home, the Cardinals went toe-to-toe with a top-10 team on the road and fell just short after a slow start.
Louisville obviously needs to find someone who can start more quickly so that the Cardinals don’t have an awful start like they did on Saturday. But this team shouldn’t make a big slide down the standings without Snider in the lineup.
3. Florida State’s defense can take away main options
One of the impressive things about Florida State’s defense on Saturday was how they took sophomores Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel and neutralized them after the duo combined for 36 points in the win over Clemson.
Mitchell and Adel were only held to 18 points on 6-for-23 shooting on Saturday as the Seminole defense did the best they could to harass those two into a bad game. With Mitchell and Adel struggling to drum up consistent points, the Cardinals had to turn to Tony Hicks as the senior graduate transfer took 17 shots and led the team with 17 points.
If Louisville wants to beat elite teams, then Tony Hicks can’t be the guy shooting that many shots. If teams are going to be keyed in on Adel and Mitchell then Louisville needs to adjust its gameplan or have a more balanced backup plan in place for offense.
Back to Florida State’s defense though, they have the type of long and athletic defenders that they can throw at you in waves and they also have length at the rim with guys like Michael Ojo and Isaac. They’re a tough group to score on if they’re focused.
4. The Florida State offense still needs work
Florida State’s March ceiling will ultimately come down to which offense they bring to the NCAA tournament. The Seminoles have the length, athleticism and rotation to wear down teams on defense if they want to. As we’ve seen with Leonard Hamilton teams of the past, the Seminoles’ offense can be maddeningly inconsistent.
The good news is that Florida State has been efficient as a whole. We know that Florida State might be built to last because they’re pulling off the impressive feat of ranking in the top 30 in KenPom in adjusted offensive efficiency, adjusted defensive efficiency and adjusted tempo.
Not many teams in the country play fast and can play well on both ends of the floor. Florida State can. But the offense can still stall out at times and go to too much hero ball. Lots of talent remains on the floor for the Seminoles but isolation-heavy sets can take foot. When this team stops moving the ball they can be in trouble.
5. We’ll know if Florida State is in the ACC race after this three-game road trip
For as much praise as we’ve given Florida State this season — and much of it justifiably so — the Seminoles also only have one true road win this season.
That road win happened to come at Virginia, which has been one of the toughest places to play in the country the last few seasons, so that erased some doubts for Florida State, but this next three-game trip should teach us a lot about this group.
With three winnable games coming up at Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Miami, the Seminoles can make a statement that they can compete for the ACC title if they take care of teams like that on this trip.
If Florida State returns from that trip 3-0 then it will be time to really take them seriously in the ACC race.