In the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson, Florida State played more like the team that won last year’s ACC Tournament title and less like the one that stumbled into town with five losses. In the end, that proved to be enough to help the Seminoles spoil the Tigers’ 2012-13 league opener by winning their own, 71-66 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Okaro White led the way with 15 points, followed by Terry Whisnant (11) and Terrance Shannon (11).
It was another typical ACC blowout - a four or five point victory by one team or another,” joked FSU coach Leonard Hamilton. “In the ACC it seems we always have a lot of closely contested games with two teams battling each other.”
After struggling offensively and defensively for the first 20 minutes Brad Brownell’s team came alive in the second half – and came tantalizing close to pulling out the win.
“This was a disappointing, frustrating loss tonight,” Brownell said. “I don’t know why we’ve gotten off to such slow starts in some of these games but it has really cost us.”
Clemson (8-5, 0-1 ACC) outscored and largely outplayed Florida State (9-5, 1-0) after halftime, chipping away at a 16-point deficit at the start of the final period and cutting it all the way down to three on three occasions.
The next to last Tiger surge came at the 2:14 juncture when center Devin Booker popped one in from close range and was fouled to make it a 65-62 game.
Then after the teams swapped free throws, Clemson had the ball with 29 seconds left and on the down side of a 66-63 score.
A flurry to the bucket came up empty but FSU touched a loose ball as it was going out of bounds with 22 ticks showing, and Brownell’s team had another huge opportunity.
But Milton Jennings was whistled for a foul at the :16 mark, sending FSU to the line.
White hit both free throws and another foul on Clemson, another turnover by the Tigers and another charity shot by the Seminoles all but sealed the deal.
Jennings closed out Clemson scoring with a 3-pointer, then Shannon hit two FSU freebies to wrap things up.
“We had them right where we wanted them,” said Booker, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. “(As a senior) the players depend a lot on me but I’m just one player. We just didn’t have enough people ready to step up.”
The situation started deteriorating for the hosts just over eight and a half minutes in.
When Clemson called a timeout with 11:35 remaining in the first half the Tigers trailed 19-6, victimized by FSU’s five 3-pointers and their own inability to score from anywhere on the court or chase down a missed shot.
“They came in and made shots they don’t normally make,” Brownell said. “They got into a really good rhythm and it was hard for us to get transition baskets and advantage situations.”
While building a substantial lead the ‘Noles were hitting 58 percent from the field and 63 percent from beyond the arc with five treys.
Clemson, on the other hand, had no 3-pointers and was a measly 20 percent from the floor.
By the time the horn sounded to signal intermission Brownell’s charges had improved their field goal percentage to 31.8 percent but managed only one successful 3-pointer.
Throw in a 21-12 rebounding advantage for Florida State and the hosts were fortunate to be as close as they were, trailing 38-25.
Things were much different in the second half. Clemson actually finished with a rebounding edge (37-33) and had four players besides Booker hit double figures – K.J. McDaniels (15), freshman Jordan Roper (11) and Jennings (10).
“This is tough,” said Roper, who logged 23 minutes in his ACC debut. “We wanted to come out and start well. We just didn’t play to the best of our abilities in the first half and it ended up costing us.”