Defense turns into instant offense.
That’s been the mindset of Florida State’s basketball team this season. It’s one of the main reasons the Seminoles won 22 games on the year.
Such was the case again Monday night against Boston College as the No. 19-ranked Noles cruised to a 104-72 victory over the Eagles in front of 9,609 fans at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
The Seminoles (22-6, 10-5 ACC) held the Eagles to 38.8 percent shooting and generated 15 turnovers which led to multiple transition opportunities, an area in which the Noles thrive.
“We got after it on the defensive end,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It gave us the opportunity to get out in transition and move the ball.”
Xavier Rathan-Mayes was excellent defensively, routinely pressuring the Eagles’ point guards 94 feet from the basket and disrupting their offense. The redshirt junior drew the praise of his coaches and teammates after the game, as well as Boston College coach Jim Christian.
“He doesn’t get enough credit for his defense,” Christian said. “He’s the best on-ball pressure defender in the ACC, he’s the straw that stirs the drink for them.”
Rathan-Mayes’ own coach agreed, claiming his guard deserved a spot on the All-ACC Defensive Team when the season ends.
“If he’s not an all-defensive guard, then I don’t know who is, because he’s done a tremendous job,” Hamilton said.
Rathan-Mayes helped the Seminoles hold the Eagles to just 32.4 percent shooting in the first half and only 31 points at the break.
“I came into this season wanting to be a leader on the defensive end and really challenged myself to be (ACC) defensive player of the year,” Rathan-Mayes said. “I take that mindset into every game, to be disruptive and stop opposing guards.”
Rathan-Mayes finished the contest with seven points and 10 assists, committing zero turnovers in the process.
Dwayne Bacon scored 16 points on the evening, becoming the 46th Seminole to reach the 1,000-point mark for a career. Bacon joined Bob Sura as the school’s only sophomores to attain the achievement and – in game No. 62 of his career at FSU – the 14th fastest to accomplish the feat.
The sophomore out of Lakeland, Fla., buried a 3-pointer early in the second half to join the club and led the Noles in scoring on the evening.
“He had a tough night the other night (at Pittsburgh),” Rathan-Mayes said. “I wanted him involved early and wanted to make him the focal part of the offense. He shot the ball great.”
FSU, as it has done all season at home, raced out to a quick start, leading 11-4 by the under-16 media timeout. The Seminoles used their massive interior-post advantage over the Eagles, feeding Michael Ojo for two early baskets.
“It’s about how we start. When we’re getting deflections early it gives us energy, which helps our offense,” Jonathan Isaac said. “That then helps our defense even more, it goes hand in hand.”
The Seminoles put the Eagles away for good later in the first half on the backs of a 12-2 run and another 10-2 run, led by P.J. Savoy’s hot-shooting half. The sophomore hit 3 of 4 from beyond the arc on his way to 11 points to lead all scorers into halftime as FSU held a 55-31 advantage.
Savoy finished the game with 15 points off the bench, which combined to outscore Boston College’s bench 59-2 in the game.
“It’s the ‘boom-squad,’ baby, that’s what they do,” said Isaac, who scored 14 points. “They’ve been a big part of our team all season.”
In the second half, FSU continued to put its foot on the gas pedal, getting stops and leaking out into transition for a number of highlight-reel dunks.
A pair of free-throws from Brandon Allen with 3:16 left in the game gave the Seminoles at least 100 points for the fifth time this season. Florida State finished the night shooting over 54 percent from the floor, while burying 12 3-pointers to aid the offensive onslaught. The Noles also generated 26 assists to just eight turnovers on the evening. The win makes FSU 17-0 at home this season and moves the Seminoles back into fourth place in the ACC standings.
Next up, FSU heads back on the road to face Clemson on Saturday, hoping to shift the same level of energy and focus away from the Donald L. Tucker Center.
“We have to generate the energy among ourselves,” Rathan Mayes said. “It’ll start with preparation this week, and we have to start with the defense to create our energy.”