Turnovers plague ‘Noles, season ends

G Luke Loucks (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Florida State had many things you like to see in a tournament team, like a handful of seniors, a deep bench and the ability to defend anybody. However, turnovers were a big problem all season long.

It has been the Achilles heel of this team the entire season.

Turnovers.

The Seminoles had been able to overcome them for most of the season due to their stingy defense and timely shot making.

However, they were eventually the primary reason that the 2011-12 campaign will no longer continue.

Florida State fell to Cincinnati 62-56 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. It had been an affair that lacked flow and offensive execution throughout. FSU appeared to be in prime position to win the game, but turnovers down the stretch negated any possibility of participating in a second consecutive Sweet 16.

Cincinnati's scrappy style of defense frustrated Florida State throughout the night. The Bearcats were able to consistently steal the ball out of garnet-and-gold hands, and FSU's 17 turnovers led directly to 19 points on the other end.

"We had in the scouting report that they were what you would call a tremendous strip team," said coach Leonard Hamilton. "I thought they got a lot of deflections that led to baskets. Most of the time when you turn the ball over it's dead-ball situations."

A "live ball" turnover is what effectively sealed the Seminoles' fate.

With 1:33 remaining and the game tied at 50, guard Luke Loucks controlled the ball in the backcourt and tried sending a pass across to Deividas Dulkys. The pass didn't have much power to it and was intercepted by Cincinnati guard Dion Dixon, who subsequently slammed it home to give the Bearcats a two-point lead.

"For years and years, I'll wish I had that play back," said Loucks following the loss.

Things would only get worse for Loucks and the ‘Noles from there.

On a night when little went right for FSU offensively, it would only seem fitting that two turnovers in the final minute and a half essentially ended the team's year. A traveling violation by Loucks with 47 seconds to play forced the 'Noles to foul for the remainder of the contest.

Cincinnati entered the night shooting just 64 percent from the charity stripe but hit every big free throw in crunch time to finish 19 of 23 for the game.

Loucks will certainly take his fair share of blame for the way he handled the basketball in the waning moments, but this loss falls on the entire squad. The 'Noles didn't seem right from the beginning, turned the ball over aplenty and shot just 38 percent from the field.

And just like that, all the momentum is gone and the season has come to a screeching halt.

This one will be tough to swallow.

Many believed that FSU was a legitimate contender to represent the East region in the Final Four. The ‘Noles had just captured its first ACC Tournament championship and defeated Duke and North Carolina in a span of less than 24 hours. Florida State became the first team since Georgia Tech in 1995-96 to top both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels twice in one season.

It has been a season full of accomplishments and one that put FSU on the map.

Despite the disappointing finish, Hamilton refuses to negate all of the positives he was witness to this year.

"I can't say how proud I am of this team," Hamilton said. "I really feel they represented the Florida State and Tallahassee communities in as fine a fashion as I've ever seen. We're not going to allow this last game to identify who we are and what we've become."

What they've become is certainly something to be recognized.

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A ballclub that started 9-6 and suffered a 20-point loss to Clemson to begin the ACC schedule ended the year with a 25-10 record. The ‘Noles also finished in the top 10 of the final AP poll of the season. This year's senior class will graduate as the winningest in FSU men's basketball history and has participated in four straight NCAA Tournaments.

At this time, it may be difficult for Florida State players to recognize those accomplishments. After all, an extreme high that this group experienced just one week ago has suddenly been countered with a cavernous low.

"It's tough to reflect on the season when it's so painful and so fresh," said Loucks. "I'm mature enough and old enough to realize that we did a lot of things that we can be proud of. I'm sure looking back in a few weeks or a few months when this subsides that we'll have a lot to be proud of."


Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.

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