FSU Comeback Beats Louisville in Overtime

Ken Cross

February 11, 2019 at 1:42 pm.

Feb 9, 2019; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Dwayne Sutton (24) pressures Florida State Seminoles guard Terance Mann (14) during the second half at Donald L. Tucker Center. Photo Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 9, 2019; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Dwayne Sutton (24) pressures Florida State Seminoles guard Terance Mann (14) during the second half at Donald L. Tucker Center. Photo Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt the Florida State Seminoles are hitting their stride now after winning their fifth game in a row in an 80-75 overtime thriller against Louisville on Saturday.

They finished the game with a flourish as they trailed the Cardinals 52-42 with 10:07 remaining when they set their defense down the stretch and turned the Cardinals over while wearing them down.

Florida State scored 32 points off of 23 turnovers. That relentlessness is what has happened in the five-game winning streak as they have forced 15.5 turnovers per game while defending at a high clip in turning defense into offense.

“Kids are finding a way to win,” said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. “They understand the defense is important and we always haven’t been that focused on defensive end. I think that is part of the growth process that our guys have gone through.”

Louisville led for 31 minutes and seemed to have the game in hand inside of two minutes. The deciding moment for Florida State came with 1:11 to play when M.J. Walker stole the inbounds pass at the head of Florida State’s press and laid it in to tie the game at 63-63. This came immediately after Louisville missed a box out and allowed Mfiondu Kabengele to slam in an offensive rebound.

“I think he has only scratched the surface on his potential,” said Hamilton. “He is doing a really good job and is getting more confident and is putting himself in position where he can have some success.”

Kabengele has turned into a leader as a redshirt sophomore. He played 36 minutes on Saturday as he scored 22 points and grabbed six boards. Kabengele, the nephew of former NBA All-Star Dikembe Moutombo, leads FSU in ACC play with 15.2 points per game, while shooting 54.8 percent from the field in the Seminoles 6-4 league ledger.

“He is really growing up and maturing and making good decisions with the ball and realizing the input he has on the team,” explained Hamilton. “He is patient and extremely aggressive. I think the game is slowing down for him a little bit.”

Guard Trent Forrest is another Seminole who is stepping his game up as he has gotten healthy after suffering from a toe injury throughout the early part of the season. He is stepping up beside Terance Mann in the back court where he had five steals on Saturday to go with 20 points in playing 40 minutes.

Forrest’s presence is huge with his speed and quickness, plus his ability to get to the rim as he made 9-of-11 free throws.

“He is very persistent in effort and focus,” Hamilton said. “He is a leader on the team. I thought he came out the second half and found a way to get it going.”

Forrest was playing with lots of confidence as he was calling defenses on the floor when Florida State made its final aggressive run at the Cardinals. He tapped in his own shot with 2:37 remaining in the overtime to give FSU a 73-65 lead.

Mann was instrumental in that run as well with his slashing and getting to the line where he made four free throws.

“They just wore us down,” said Louisville coach Chris Mack. “We have guys playing a lot of minutes and our offense the last six minutes of regulation and in overtime – when we got a shot it was an earned shot. We gave up a few too many possessions and Florida State had a lot to do with that.”

The ‘Noles got off to a tough start in ACC play after losing four of their first five including an 80-78 home decision to Duke on a Cam Reddish buzzer beater. That was a game where Florida State outplayed the vaunted Blue Devils for most of the contest, but a miscommunication out of a late time out left Reddish open.

“We have learned that we have to try to play 40 minutes as aggressively as we played the second half,” said Hamilton. “We had really grown to the point where we were in the situation we were in.  That’s part of the journey we are going through.”

The Seminoles were impressive in how they took Syracuse apart last Wednesday in their 80-62 win where the Orange shot only 41.2 percent and made only 5-of-20 three-point shots. Forcing Syracuse and Louisville into a combined 41 turnovers tells where this team is going, especially on the defensive end.

Hamilton warns to be cautious because there is a lot of basketball to be played.

“It means we have won six games and no one is going to the NCAA with six wins,” noted Hamilton. “Just like sometimes you have to learn how to handle defeats bounce back, you have to learn how to handle success as well. We need to make sure we stay focused and realize we have a lot of room to improve.”