Friday, March 18, 2011
Rapid Reaction: FSU 57, Texas A&M 50
By Eamonn Brennan
CHICAGO -- College hoops is notoriously hard to predict, but this game wasn't. It was going to be slow. It was going to be physical. It was going to be defensive. It was going to be ugly.
Check, check, check and check.
Florida State entered the Friday afternoon's game with the second-stingiest defense in the country. Texas A&M arrived in Chicago with its slow pace and rebound-reliant attack in tow. Yep: This was always going to be a grinder.
In the end, Florida State's defense was enough. The Seminoles held A&M to 50 points in 57 possessions and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament with a 57-50 victory.
Turning point: As tempting as it is to call Texas A&M's first basket of the day the turning point -- it came after nearly eight minutes of basketball, after all -- the real game-changer happened with 4:49 remaining in the second half, when FSU guard Derwin Kitchen drove to the rim, converted despite a foul, and sank his free throw to give the Seminoles an eight-point lead.
Key stat: Florida State is almost always going to keep its opponents from scoring in bunches. The question for the Seminoles is always whether or not they can score enough to get the win. FSU wasn't pretty Thursday, but it did shoot the ball well enough as a team (with a 51.2 effective field goal percentage) to score just under a point per possession on the day. That was plenty to outpace A&M, which went 16-of-51 from the field.
Key player: FSU forward Chris Singleton returned from injury for the first time since Feb. 19, but his minutes were limited. Instead, this honor goes to Kitchen, who offered the day's most efficient offensive performance and made the key drive down the stretch to push the Seminoles out in front of A&M for good.
Miscellany: For the first eight minutes of the game, it looked like the Seminoles and Aggies were determined to top Penn State and Wisconsin for sheer offensive ugliness. This game wasn't that bad, but the Aggies did open the first half with almost eight minutes of scoreless basketball. The score at half -- 26-23 A&M -- came thanks to the teams' combined 15-of-49 shooting from the field. In that span, A&M made exactly two 2-point field goals. It wasn't pretty, but that's the way FSU likes it.
What's next: The Aggies will end their surprising (if eventually disappointing) season at 24-9. The Seminoles will advance to the round of 32, where a matchup with the offensively efficient Notre Dame Fighting Irish. "Clash of styles" is the appropriate cliche here.