Florida State’s Bacon, Beasley nation’s top scoring freshmen
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The nation’s top freshmen scorers early in the college basketball season are quietly getting it done a school at Florida State.
That might come as a surprise to some with all the talk about youngsters at top-ranked Kentucky and LSU’s Ben Simmons, all well deserved. But going into Florida State’s game against Iowa on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Dwayne Bacon (20.6 points per game) and Malik Beasley (20.0) are accounting for 44.4 percent of the Seminoles’ offense.
Thanks to the tandem, Florida State leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring at 91.4 points per game, which is seventh nationally.
With sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes running the point, the Seminoles (4-1) have one of the youngest and most versatile backcourts in the ACC.
”You can tell within the first five games that we are meshing well and sharing the ball,” Bacon said. ”That has opened up a bunch of different opportunities for everyone. ”
Bacon and Beasley made their official visits to Florida State last September and committed at the same time. They were also the linchpins for a recruiting class considered to be among the nation’s best.
Bacon, a 6-foot-7 guard, is the 11th McDonald’s All-American to play for Florida State and the first since Michael Snaer in 2009. His 23 points in the Nov. 15 opener against Nicholls State was the best debut in school history and he has scored 20 points or more in three games. He also leads the team in rebounding with 32 including nine on the offensive end.
Beasley, a 6-5 guard who was Georgia’s Class 1A Player of the Year last season, is the first Florida State freshman to score 20 or more points in his first three games. The first two weeks of the season each won ACC rookie of the week honors, another first in school history.
Both have different styles and complement each other well. They are both good on midrange shots, but Bacon likes to drive to the hoop and can be physical in the paint while Beasley has a better perimeter game.
Despite being one of the most heralded recruits ever by Florida State, Bacon is more comfortable if the group around him also is playing well.
”I love playing with other great players,” he said. ”If it is my night I know they are going to get me the ball but on other nights it is going to be someone else. I can drive the lane and kick it out to Malik or Xavier for a 3.”
Florida State’s lone loss, Nov. 20 to Hofstra in the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, also taught the freshmen a valuable lesson: not to take anyone for granted.
Beasley said there was an attitude before the game that it wouldn’t be close. But Hofstra shot nearly 50 percent from the field and survived a late Florida State rally to win by five.
Rathan-Mayes added that during some games of the tournament in the Virgin Islands opponents did a good job of keeping Beasley away from the perimeter and limiting transition chances for Bacon.
”They are learning as we get further into the season that teams are going to have more of a scouting report and knowing their tendencies,” Rathan-Mayes said. ”But they are doing a good job of learning and also taking instruction from some of the veteran guys.”
Florida State opened the season by playing five games in nine days but the Seminoles have had an eight-day layoff since a 90-81 win over Ohio on Nov. 23. Iowa (4-2) played three games last week during the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, losing two of them. The lone Hawkeyes win was against No. 20 Wichita State.
The one area that Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton is looking for improvement is on defense. During the Paradise Jam, opponents hit 47.3 percent from the field, including 42.9 percent on 3-ponters.
”Our veterans have really stepped up and tried to set the table,” the coach said, ”but I can’t say anyone on our team is playing great defense.”
He hopes that changes against the Hawkeyes.