"We played almost well enough today to beat a good Carolina team. We were beaten today by a team that was a little hungrier than we were."
Those were some of Leonard Hamilton's comments following Florida State's 77-72 loss to North Carolina.
Added Hamilton, "We just did not execute down the stretch."[Listen to more of Hamilton's postgame comments]
What the head coach was referring to was his team's inability to score points as the game was winding down. Despite an effective offense most of the game that saw the Seminoles shoot 48% from the field including eleven three pointers, it was the final five minutes of the game where FSU went absolutely cold and made crucial mistakes and poor decisions.
In a back and forth game, Okaro White's twisting and turning fall away jumper from the lane gave the 'Noles a 70-69 lead with 4:50 to play.
White added two free throws thirty-four seconds later to make it 72-69.
It was the last points the Seminoles would score in the game as offensive execution completely disappeared.
PJ Hairston's slam dunk driving in from the left side (a defensive play all day that greatly displeased Hamilton) and a offensive put back by James McAdoo put UNC in front, 73-72, with 3:10 left.
Meanwhile the Seminoles were their own worst enemy. Michael Snaer, trapped in the corner, for the second time in the final minutes uncharacteristically turned the ball over. Hairston made the Seminoles pay with a long jump shot from the left wing for a three point Carolina lead.
But again the defense held forcing a shot clock violation by the Tar Heels with 22 seconds left on the game clock.
FSU called a timeout three seconds later to set the play to potentially tie the game. What ensued was almost certainly not what Hamilton called in the huddle. Snaer launched a three from well behind the arc just seconds into the possession that clanged off the rim.
In his post game comments, it was unclear if Hamilton was referring to that play when he said "we came out of timeouts and did the exact opposite." But he very well could have.
The Seminoles who were beaten on the boards badly in the game, 41-19, of course were unable to secure the rebound and were forced to foul Paige. Paige provided the final points in the game from the line.
A final foul shot by Dexter Strickland with 1.5 seconds left missed. Snaer collected the rebound and after the buzzer sounded spiked the ball sounded onto the floor in obvious disgust that Seminoles missed an opportunity to beat a struggling Carolina team.
It will be the final minutes that Seminole fans will talk about, but not Hamilton -- although he noted the three FSU turnovers in the later stages of the game.
"What happens at the end of a game is what people think is the reason for a loss," Hamilton said. "But we just didn't finish plays in transition. We had six breakaway layups that we did not make."
The coach was not especially pleased with his defense either.
"We probably gave up more dunks in this game than we did all of last season."
And on the lack of rebounding Hamilton added, "We didn't find any energy or focus to rebound the ball as well as we have been lately."
"We didn't block out."
That lack of blocking out led to 19 offensive boards for UNC and 19 second chance points.
Clearly North Carolina came into the game desperate for a conference win after starting 0-2 in losing in un-Carolina fashion to Virginia and Miami.
Attesting to the closeness of the game neither team led by more than four in the first half with UNC leading 33-31 at intermission.
In the second half there were six lead changes and five ties with FSU leading by as much as four and UNC by as much as five points.
Leading scorer for the Seminoles was White with 15, all coming in the second half. Whisnant added 14 with for threes and Shannon 12.
Although the 'Noles took care of the ball with a season low 10 turnovers against 17 assists, it was the missed opportunities that ultimately did them in.
Hairston led all scorers with 23 points.
With the loss, Florida State drops to 10-6, 2-1 missing a chance to stay in the lead of the ACC after Duke's loss earlier in the day to NC State.
The Seminoles will not resume play until next Saturday when they travel to Virginia for a 4 PM tip off. They will meet another struggling team hungry for a win. After starting out ACC play with the win over UNC, the Cavs have dropped back to back conference games with the latest at Clemson, earlier in the day as well.
With UVa also idle until next Saturday, both teams will be looking to get back on track.