Florida State made it through its non-conference schedule virtually unscathed.
The No. 9 Seminoles (12-1) defeated Florida (81-60), LSU (79-76), Purdue (73-72), UConn (79-71), and St. Louis (81-59) with their only loss coming at a neutral site against defending national champion Villanova (66-60).
The Seminoles are currently projected as a No. 4 seed by ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi.
Here’s what stood out for FSU during the non-conference slate.
MVP/Leading scorer/Leading rebounder: Terance Mann
Mann really has done it all for the Seminoles this season. He leads the team averaging 13.1 points per game and is also pulling down a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game. Mann has improved his outside shooting immensely and is knocking down 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts this season.
With Phil Cofer sidelined with a foot injury for the first nine games, Mann was the unquestioned leader on the court for the Seminoles and kept the team on track. He’s scored 17 or more points in six of FSU’s 13 games so far this season and has done it in three straight games against North Florida (17), St. Louis (17), and Winthrop (22).
Most assists: Trent Forrest
Forrest stepped into the starting point guard role after coming off the bench a season ago. He has always been a “stat-stuffer” as coach Leonard Hamilton likes to call him and that role has only been amplified since he became a starter.
He’s third on the team averaging 10.7 points and tied for third in rebounds averaging 4.5 per game. He’s leading the team in assists by a wide margin. He’s currently averaging 3.6 per game with a total of 47. Mann is the next closest with 26.
Most Important Moment: Mfiondu Kabengele’s game-winning three vs. LSU
FSU trailed then No. 19 LSU by nine with just under four minutes remaining in the semifinal round of the Advocare Invitational on Nov. 23 but battled back to send the game into overtime thanks to a Forrest lay-up with 2.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
Overtime was just as tight as the first 40 minutes with both teams trading blows back and forth. The Tigers tied the game at 76 with 11.5 seconds left.
Forrest handled the ball for the Seminoles and spotted Kabengele open in the corner. He had to get the ball around a LSU defender and made an off-balance pass that Kabengele was able to handle and pop.
The shot hit nothing but rim and bounced a few feet in the air. It looked like the two teams were heading for double overtime when the ball came back down and went right through the basket to give the Seminoles a 79-76 win and a spot in the Advocare Invitational championship game against Villanova.
Best Moment: Trent Forrest’s game-winning shot vs. Purdue
FSU led by as many as 16 points in the first half against then No. 19 Purdue in front of a packed crowd at the Tucker Civic Center on Nov. 28 before the Boilermakers fought back to take an eight-point lead with just under four minutes remaining in the game. The Seminoles slowly fought back, but still found themselves trailing 72-71 with just enough time for one possession.
FSU got the ball into Mann’s hands with 13 seconds remaining, but he passed the ball off to Forrest, who drove the lane, drew some contact just past the free throw line, and buried a floater to give the Seminoles a 73-72 lead over Purdue with 5.2 seconds left. FSU would weather the last possession by the Boilermakers and picked up another quality win.
Worst Moment: Phil Cofer injury
FSU did have the one loss, but that’s not the worst moment of the season so far for the Seminoles. Cofer missed the first nine games of the season after suffering a right foot injury during preseason practice.
Cofer was FSU’s leading scorer during the 2017-18 season (12.8 ppg.) and was the vocal leader on the court for the Seminoles. His loss went much deeper than just his production on the court.
He returned for the game against Southeast Missouri, but sat out the next game against North Florida. He returned against St. Louis and got his first start of the season against Winthrop Tuesday. He scored 14 points with two rebounds and three assists against the Eagles.
Most impressive win: St. Louis
St. Louis was the preseason pick to win the Atlantic-10 conference and is considered one of the top mid-major teams in the country. FSU dominated the Billikens 81-59 in every facet of the game in the Orange Bowl Classic on Dec. 22.
The Seminoles shot 55.4 percent from the floor and 55.6 percent from beyond the arc in the game with backup point guard David Nichols dropping a season-high 19 points in the win.
The FSU defense was just as impressive as the offense. The Seminoles held St. Louis to just 30.2 percent from the floor and 21.4 percent from three.
It was a very impressive showing against a team that’s likely to make the NCAA tournament in March.
FSU opens ACC play on the road against No. 2 Virginia (11-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday before returning home to play Miami (8-4) at 9 p.m. on Jan. 9 and No. 1 Duke (11-1) at 2 p.m. on Jan 12 in its first ACC three games.
No. 9 Florida State at No. 2 Virginia
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
TV/Radio: ESPN2/103.1 FM