Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac said one of the keys to beating N.C. State was to get the ball out of Dennis Smith Jr.’s hands.
The Seminoles found success with that in their 95-71 win over the Wolfpack on Wednesday.
“They’ve got a great shooter in Maverick Rowan and a good post guy in (Abdul-Malik) Abu, but those guys don’t really handle the ball well coming up the floor,” Isaac said. “So if we get the ball out of Dennis Smith’s hands early we can attack those bigs trying to handle the ball up the floor.”
As soon as the freshman guard crossed half court, the Seminoles would double-team him. Smith, who scored eight points in 35 minutes, turned the ball over at least twice when he was doubled. The Seminoles’ main goal was to make someone other than Smith beat them.
“It’s like back to high school,” Smith said. “They sent double-teams to half court, and I got denied the ball.”
The strategy hadn’t been used against the Wolfpack this year, and it was one that Smith gave Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton credit for after the game.
“They had a great scheme, and I told coach Hamilton that was great scheme tonight,” Smith said, “but we got to capitalize on that.”
During the game, both Smith and senior guard Terry Henderson told freshman forward Ted Kapita to come up the court when the player guarding him double-teamed Smith.
“He has to flash to the middle,” Smith said. “Whenever you get double-teamed, (whoever’s) man leaves has to go middle and it’s four on three. We have to make a play.”
N.C. State (14-11, 3-9 ACC) didn’t make too many plays Wednesday night. No. 14 Florida State (21-4, 9-3) used its length to its advantage, contesting shots and making life a lot harder for the Wolfpack.
Smith said the Wolfpack’s problem was its toughness.
“We’ve got to do better on the boards,” he said. “We’re getting killed on the offensive glass about every game.”
The Wolfpack didn’t tie or lead the game at any point. The Seminoles got out to an early 7-2 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the game and never looked back.
The Seminoles had 21 offensive rebounds and 49 overall rebounds compared with the Wolfpack’s total of 25.
“I thought that was the biggest key of the game,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “At times I thought we defended them well, but then we’d give up a second-chance point.”
The Seminoles had 19 second-chance points and at times just looked too big and too strong for the Wolfpack.
Isaac, a 6-10, 210-pound forward, dominated N.C. State early. He scored 17 points in the first half on an array of dunks and jump shots. He finished with 21 points and seemed to be free on almost every possession in the first half.
Henderson said everyone on the team has to keep playing for each other. He said not being on the same page defensively has been one of the Wolfpack’s downfalls.
“We can’t keep getting down on one another and hanging our heads during the game because it looks bad,” he said. “If we call quits now, it’s not going to do anybody no good.”