FSU will live or die by its defense

Florida State is attempting to be more efficient on the offensive end, but turnovers prevent that from happening. If the 'Noles want to win consistently, then their defense must lead the way again.

We all know the saying: Defense wins championships.

For the Seminoles, they hope it will capture them an ACC title.

However, for now, a dominating regular-season win will suffice.

Florida State routed Charleston Southern 76-51 on Monday night to secure its sixth win of the season. The game was never close, and the ‘Noles dominated from the starting tip.

It was FSU's first home game in more than two weeks, and perhaps the familiar surroundings encouraged some energetic play. Maybe it was the desire to snap a three-game losing streak, or it might have been the lesser-quality opponent.

Nonetheless, it was important to get back on the winning track following a difficult stretch that included losses to high-profile programs like UConn and Michigan State.

Florida State used defensive intensity to get back to its winning ways.

"That's as long and athletic a team as I've ever competed against," said Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh. "They will continue to be excellent if they perform like that defensively."

He may be right.

If the ‘Noles are going to contend this season, then they're going to need that swarming "Junkyard D," as coined by coach Leonard Hamilton, to continue. FSU has become well known in recent years for its stifling defense and habit of forcing turnovers. In 2010-11, the Seminoles led the country in field-goal percentage allowed, and they seem to be destined to contend for that crown once again.

The truth of the matter is Florida State needs its defense to be dominating because its offense is close to the opposite. Despite its 48 percent shooting, FSU turned the ball over 21 times against the Buccaneers and gave away several possessions because of lazy passing and sloppy ball-handling. The team is averaging more than 18 giveaways per game.

"We invent ways to turn the ball over," said Hamilton. "We can cut those out. If we are going to get to the place we want to be, then we are going to have to correct that."

That place, presumably, is back to the NCAA Tournament, where FSU enjoyed a Sweet Sixteen run last season. That place could also be at the top of the conference standings. The ‘Noles were a popular pick to finish third in the ACC behind the usual powerhouses, North Carolina and Duke. If it's their wish to get there, then the offensive production is going to have to improve.

Still, the Seminoles were able to make a nice run last season despite moments of poor offensive execution.

The reason? Defense.

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So far, nothing appears different this season.

Florida State is holding its opponents to 34 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. Its big men are preventing penetration by clogging the middle, and when the ball is kicked out, the wings are doing a nice job of recovering to guard the 3-point shot. If this continues, then the ‘Noles will be competitive on most nights.

Radebaugh was so impressed with FSU's defense and size that he couldn't help but crack a joke.

"At least in league expansion, FSU didn't decide to join the Big South," he said. "Last time I checked rosters in the Big South, nobody's that big."

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

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