January 17, 2014

Insider Report: White cutting down on fouls, Noles look to UVA

Okaro White knows he has a reputation, and he's trying hard to change it.

FSU's senior forward is known as a foul-happy player. Already this season he's closing in on 50 fouls for FSU and has fouled out three times this season.

"I understand I've always been a foul-prone guy," White said. "I've kind of got a reputation around the league as a foul-prone guy."

That being said, even with White's foul numbers this season, so far it's been his best as far as staying on the court. White is averaging 2.8 fouls per game, down from his sophomore (3.2) and junior (3) averages. And in FSU's up-and-down season, one statistic stands out: In FSU's losses, White averages four fouls per game. In FSU's wins, he averages just 2.45 fouls.

"I think most of that's mental," head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Just don't do the reaching. That's one of the reasons we have the rotation we have."

White's presence on the floor is doubly important for this year's FSU team. His ability to play both small and power forward - especially on the defensive end - has been critical. He's frequently the late-game closer at power forward because of his ability to switch on screens and stay with his man. White said he's especially tried to cut out the reaching fouls after defensive rebounds, 80 feet from the basket.

"I've been trying to not reach so much," White said. "I just get to reaching. Coach (Stan) Jones was joking with me and he was like well if we can't get you to stop reaching, at least reach up instead of hacking down."

On Saturday, White has a chance to erase one of his poorer fouling days. Against Virginia in Tallahassee, White had four fouls in the loss.

Getting even with Cavaliers

There were bad moments and worse moments in Florida State's 62-50 loss to Virginia on Jan. 4.

The final numbers were ugly. FSU had 16 turnovers and shot just 30.8 percent from the field as the Virginia defense bkaslbhkjae. The Seminoles cut a 22-point lead down to seven in the second half, but the loss was still

"The whole game was horrible," senior guard Ian Miller said. "Even the good part was bad."

FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said he saw his team improve its focus after that game. The Seminoles have now won three straight and can move ahead of the Cavaliers in the ACC standings with a win on Saturday.

That's easier said than done. Virginia allows just 56 points per game, ranking third in the nation. They also allow just .89 points per possession, ranking ninth nationally. The Cavs aren't a particularly aggressive defense, but they'll wait for opponents to make mistakes. Too often, Florida State made those mistakes in their first meeting.

"They're a good defensive team," Hamilton said. "They're one of the top defensive teams in the country. You can't just go out and play without all your players being on the same page against a team that sound defensively. I didn't think we did that the last time we played."

Florida State made progress in the second half of the loss two weeks ago, limiting turnovers and whittling away at the lead. Hamilton said he thinks he'll see more of the same from Virginia this time around, though he'll hope for a different outcome.

"With the way they're playing right now, I don't know why they'd have to change anything they're doing," Hamilton said. "They're taking everybody to the woodshed."

In the zone

As FSU rallied for a late comeback win against Miami, the Seminoles did something unusual: they switched to a zone defense. For almost the entire second half.

It isn't what FSU was known for - Leonard Hamilton prefers man-to-man defense. The switch to zone threw not only Miami players, but also some of FSU's as well.

"I definitely thought we were definitely going to play it for just one possession and go back to man, but we stayed with it," White said.

The results were encouraging: FSU held Miami to just 25 points on 32 percent shooting in the second half. While it was unexpected, the success of the zone defense was encouraging.

"It's very satisfying that we can actually switch up and play a different defense now and might be using it down the road," White said.

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