FLORIDA STATE (21-4, 9-3) at NOTRE DAME (18-7, 7-5)
Where: Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
Rankings: Florida State is ranked 14th in the Associated Press poll; Notre Dame is unranked.
Time/TV: 6 p.m./ESPN
Matchup History: Tonight is the sixth all-time meeting between Notre Dame and Florida State. The Seminoles have a 4-1 advantage, including an 83-80 victory Jan. 18 this season at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
“We think that one slipped away a little bit. We felt that was a game we could’ve won if we didn’t turn the ball over maybe that much. That’s in the past and we know that this is a game that we can get. It’s a really good team, should be really fun on Saturday. We’re looking forward to it.” — Notre Dame junior guard Matt Farrell on the previous game with Florida State
“We’re very hungry for it because it’s a big game. We have to stay locked in.” — Florida State star sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon on the matchup with Notre Dame (via Orlando Sentinel)
Revenge on the mind: After a 5-0 start to Atlantic Coast Conference play, Notre Dame suffered its first league loss Jan. 18 at Florida State. The Irish trailed by six at the half, but were neck-and-neck with the Seminoles throughout the second half and led 64-62 with 5:38 left. FSU freshman forward Jonathan Isaac sparked the finish for the Seminoles, draining two clutch 3-pointers and finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and added seven blocked shots. Ultimately it was a season-high 18 turnovers — including 13 in the first half — that doomed the Irish, despite hitting 15-of-21 on 3-pointers.
“We were in position to finish even with 18 turnovers,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “They made some big shots, they made some big 3’s. Our guys, they’re disappointed with how they played there, and it’s with how we threw it around.”
The captain of Notre Dame’s offense is Farrell, who had a season-high six turnovers in that first matchup. The gritty 6-1 guard is aware of the balance he has to strike with his aggressiveness in a game against the long, athletic Seminoles defense.
“Sometimes that’s hard, especially against a team like this,” Farrell said. “Just when you get in there being able to play off two feet and trying to make good decisions, but also trying to stay aggressive at the same time. Since they’re out contesting so much, that gives us the ability to get into the lane and make plays, we’ve just got to be better with the ball.”
Notre Dame continues to excel in assist-to-turnover ratio, currently ranked No. 2 in the country at 1.71. To take some of the pressure off Farrell running the offense, Brey noted that tonight might be a game where freshman guard T.J. Gibbs sees more action. Gibbs scored 12 points in 25 minutes in the first game.
“The one thing that helps is playing smaller. You have more ball handlers on the floor, you have more guards on the floor,” said Brey, who inserted sophomore guard Rex Pflueger into the starting lineup against Wake Forest. “…Playing with our spread motion and with the smaller lineup, it gives you more decision makers with the ball against their pressure, that can help us.”
FSU is 20th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Seminoles hold opponents to 33 percent from 3 (79th in D1) and 44.1 percent from 2 (31st). They rank 24th in block percentage (13.9%) and had 11 in the first game.
FSU Spotlight: After ugly back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Syracuse last month, Florida State has rebounded with three-straight wins over Miami, Clemson and NC State. In Wednesday’s win over the Wolfpack, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles held NC State star freshman Dennis Smith to just eight points. While FSU is extremely strong defensively, its offense is also very efficient, ranked 18th in the country.
Seminoles go deep: While the rest of the country gets 32.4 percent of its minutes from the bench, Florida State routinely goes 11 to 13 players deep, getting 41 percent of minutes from reserves (17th in the country). Notre Dame, meanwhile, rides its starters, getting just 24.5 percent of minutes from the bench (332nd). Though the Irish grinded out an 88-81 victory over Wake Forest on Tuesday, tonight’s game will be the third of the week and fatigue has been on Brey’s mind in recent games.
While Notre Dame has four players averaging 30-plus minutes a game, the Seminoles have none. The team’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon, averages 17.6 points a game while playing just 28.4 minutes.
“They play a lot of guys. Obviously we don’t,” Farrell said of FSU’s rotation. “We’ve got to make sure we give it all we’ve got for 40 minutes, doesn’t matter who’s on the floor, we’ve just got to stick to what we do. When it gets down to that, with 8 minutes left in the game, you’re not even thinking about being tired, you’re just thinking about winning.”
Brey said he’d like for Notre Dame to go deeper tonight, digging into the bench for minutes from senior forward Austin Torres and junior forward Martinas Geben.
Matchup to Watch: Isaac, a 6-foot-10 likely NBA lottery pick, presents a tough matchup for the undersized Irish. Isaac led all scorers with 21 points, including 17 before halftime, last time out against NC State. Notre Dame played a lot of zone in the first game against the Seminoles, though FSU’s inside presence led to 50-percent shooting for the game. The Irish will counter with 6-5 junior forward Bonzie Colson, who leads the conference with 15 double-doubles. Colson was limited in the first game against FSU, finishing with just nine points and eight rebounds. As Notre Dame continues to play more and more with just one forward, Colson’s interior play will be paramount.
Projected Notre Dame Starters:
35 Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, Jr.) — 16.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg
3 V.J. Beachem (6-8, 201, Sr.) — 15.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg
5 Matt Farrell (6-1, 178, Jr.) — 14.1 ppg, 5.4 apg
32 Steve Vasturia (6-6, 212, Sr.) — 14.0 ppg, 3.3 apg
0 Rex Pflueger (6-6, 202, So.) — 4.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
2 T.J. Gibbs (6-3, 200, Fr.) — 5.3 ppg, 2.0 apg
4 Matt Ryan (6-7, 228, So.) — 3.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg
23 Martinas Geben (6-10, 255, Jr.) — 3.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
1 Austin Torres (6-7, 241, Sr.) — 1.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Projected Florida State Starters:
4 Dwayne Bacon (6-7, 221, So.) — 17.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg
1 Jonathan Isaac (6-10, 210, Fr.) — 13.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg
22 Xavier Rathan-Mayes (6-4, 208, Jr.) — 10.2 ppg, 4.7 apg
14 Terance Mann (6-6, 204, So.) — 8.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg
50 Michael Ojo (7-1, 304, Gr.) — 5.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg
3 Trent Forrest (6-5, 215, Fr.) — 5.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg
23 Jarquez Smith (6-9, 236, Sr.) — 4.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg
5 P.J. Savoy (6-4, 200, So.) — 6.7 ppg, 0.9 rpg
2 C.J. Walker (6-1, 195, Fr.) — 5.5 ppg, 1.4 apg
Notre Dame 81, Florida State 80