Florida State had high expectations this season with Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley joining a group of highly-skilled returnees.
It seems those expectations were not misplaced, largely due to the play of the two star freshmen.
Bacon scored 24 points in leading the Seminoles to a 73-71 win over Florida on Tuesday night, including a game-winning jumper with four seconds left to give them the lead for good.
Bacon is cooking! #GoNoles #Beatuf pic.twitter.com/1pupsb9cEb
— Cook + Bacon = Wins (@SloneScott) December 30, 2015
Beasley added 10 points himself, but this one was all about Bacon. The 20-year-old freshman knocked down five 3s and three other jumpers – including that winner — against the Gators after coming in shooting only 29.3 percent on jump shots. Quite a nice time for a regression to the mean as a shooter, huh? It was a huge game for him in a big spot for the Seminoles, who really needed a win to buoy their non-conference resume.
Coming into this one, Leonard Hamilton’s team had only one other top-100 win, a tight victory against VCU to go with a pair of other close losses to Hofstra and Iowa. This gives it another nice win over a solid team to hang its hat on as it heads into the rough-and-tumble ACC. They’ll have plenty of chances to pick up wins in the league, and they’ll have a good chance to get to 20 wins.
As for Florida, the Gators look solid but don’t have a great amount to show for it at 8-4. They did pick up three top-100 wins against a tough schedule, but went 0-4 in their chances to pick up a marquee win against Purdue, Miami, Michigan State and the Seminoles. Coach Mike White has done a nice job in morphing the defense into a top-five unit nationally according to KenPom, but the offense has been a struggle. The SEC has been such a disappointment early in the season though that the Gators are still in a pretty nice position to finish high in the standings, which could be enough to make an NCAA Tournament run.
Overall, these are two borderline tournament teams who the jury is still out on. However, the Seminoles put themselves a step ahead of their in-state rival with the last-second win on the road in Gainesville.