No. 6 Florida State rallied from a dozen down to capture an all-important 82-67 victory over No. 11 Louisville on Monday, keeping its ACC regular-season championship hopes not only afloat, but alive and thriving. The Seminoles trailed by eight at halftime and as many as 12 in the second frame of action against the (former) ACC-leading Cardinals before hanging a massive 50-point second-half that vanquished the Cardinals.
It was a meltdown of epic proportions for Louisville, which led comfortably early but missed opportunities to extend its lead in the second half before crumbling. Louisville made just nine total field goals in the second half, shooting 9 of 28. FSU outscored Louisville 50-27 in the second half and closed the win on a 42-16 run. Trent Forrest led the way with 16 points while Devin Vassell and M.J. Walker had 12 points each.
Credit to Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles -- this was as much a testament to their second-half stride-hitting as Louisville's catastrophic collapse. FSU limited its own turnovers in the second half, got Vassell involved after a sleepy opening half, then squeezed the juice out of UL's offense. Louisville had no answers for Florida State's length on defense.
The win gives Florida State an edge in the ACC standings over Louisville and, for now, over Duke pending the outcome of the Blue Devils' matchup Tuesday against Wake Forest. A win for Duke would give the ACC a pair of co-leaders at the top in the final weeks of the season.
Florida State (24-4, 14-3 ACC) has just three games remaining, with its next two on the road against Clemson and Notre Dame before a season finale against Boston College. Duke (23-4, 13-3 ACC) has four games left, with its final two at home.
Let's have a look at some of the key takeaways from FSU's big win over Louisville on Monday night.
1. This version of Florida State can win it all: As the kids say these days, "No cap." I believe that's slang for no lie, which I fully stand by: Florida State can win the 2020 national championship.
This Florida State team -- the one that erased a double-digit deficit like a massive magic eraser and casually stomped Louisville's soul into oblivion -- can do the dang thing. What I saw from FSU in that second half was a team firing on all cylinders, fully clicking and ready to crash into March with confidence. FSU may be the most under-discussed 24-4 team in the sport, and three of those losses (excluding a 16-point road loss to Indiana in December) came by a combined 12 points. When Patrick Williams and Vassell are knocking down shots, this team is a defensive machine capable of kicking any club to the curb.
2. ACC a two-team race?: After this one, probably. Louisville can win out and get to 16-4 in the league, but Florida State will be favored in its final three and Duke, with four games left, will, too. That likely puts the Blue Devils and Seminoles in a down-to-the-wire race, and from what I saw Monday, I'm riding with FSU.
3. That collapse: Louisville had a case of the crumbles last year with a 23-point blown lead to Duke being the obvious example. That team's struggles have mostly stayed from this squad, but this meltdown certainly doesn't inspire confidence in the Cards moving forward. The larger issue is that Louisville keeps falling flat on big stages this season. Save for an extremely impressive road win over Duke earlier this season, it is 3-4 against KenPom top-50 teams and has two ugly losses -- to Georgia Tech and to Clemson -- glaring on the resume.
I trust this team in big spots despite some of its warts, but it certainly feels like the type of performance we saw in Louisville's road win over Duke is the exception and not the rule for this team, which makes me a bit skeptic about its postseason chances. Nonetheless, a closing slate of Virginia Tech and Virginia over the next two weeks could provide a confidence boost just ahead of the biggest chunk of the season, where all its goals lie ahead of it.