To sum up tonight’s game between Florida State and the College of Charleston, nobody on either staff was happy.
The Cougars obviously weren’t happy after losing a 12 point lead and thus a golden opportunity for the upset after baffling FSU’s offense for most of the game.
Despite winning the game 66-61 the Seminoles weren’t happy with an effort that saw them behind for more than half of the game.
It can’t really be said the 6,297 fans in attendance came happy either. More like a collective exhale of relief and a feeling that the ‘Noles got away with one tonight would describe the attitude of fans as the final buzzer sounded.
A flurry of lead changes in the last few minutes of the game saw Seminole fan’s emotions go from depression when the Cougars took a 61-58 lead with 1:57 remaining, to exhilaration when Isaiah Swann forced a high inbound pass by Antoine Wiggins that was picked off by Toney Douglas. Douglas took it in for the layup and a 62-61 lead with: 47 left.
Just one second later Swann stole the inbounds pass from Jermaine Johnson underneath FSU’s basket. Uche Echefu ended up with the ball and was fouled on the layup attempt and stretched the lead to 64-61.
Playing poised all game long the Cougars were now rattled. Tony White, who was a thorn in the Seminole’s side all game long scoring 17 points with some timely three pointers during the numerous lead changes, inexplicably had the ball fly out of his hands directly in front of Charleston’s bench. Ralph Mims corralled the ball and was promptly fouled with 19 seconds left.
Mims made one of two and was again fouled on a rebound of Johnson’s desperation three ball with just 3 seconds on the clock. Mims finished the scoring with one of two from the charity stripe and the fans cheered high fiving FSU players as they made their way to the tunnel knowing that the outcome very easily could have gone a different way.
Many will be of the opinion that Florida State played down to the now 4-5 Cougars. That was not the case at all.
Credit the Bobby Cremins’ coaching staff, in particular former FSU player Andrew Wilson. Wilson was assigned to prepare the game plan, for obvious reasons. And Wilson did a tremendous job, almost pulling off the upset.
Following the game, to a man, every FSU player and coach said Wilson was the difference. They could hear him calling the FSU plays out as the ‘Noles ran them. The common statement among the players was that Wilson seemed to know the plays better than they did.
The Seminoles managed to take a 24-19 lead at the 8:24 mark on a three from the left wing by Douglas. It went very south after that.
Time and again in the first half FSU settled for jump shots, unable to do much else. The Seminoles could not get the ball inside nor could they create much offense from their defense allowing them to score in transition.
Meanwhile a patient Cougar offense moved the ball effectively working for the open shot. Marcus Hammond’s three form the right corner with 6:05 left I the half gave Charleston its first lead of the game at 25-25. One second was left on the shot clock.
And while FSU was hurting its cause with numerous turnovers (9 in the first half), Charleston was either hitting three pointers, scoring off an Alley Oop, or running the shot clock down to next to nothing.
Only because FSU hit six three pointers did the ‘Noles manage to get within seven, 37-30, at the break when Echefu nailed a three from the right wing at the buzzer.
The second half didn’t begin much better. Hammond’s three in transition gave Charleston its largest lead of the game at 44-32 just four minutes into the half.
Leonard Hamilton had enough of that and called a thirty second timeout.
From that point on FSU ignored the jump shot for the most part and began attacking the rim, using a full court press to work their way back to within five points several times.
Douglas’ fast break layup followed by Jason Rich’s layup pulled FSU to within one 51-50 with 8:12 left.
Less than thirty seconds later following a turnover by White, FSU ran its best play of the game to take its first lead since the first half at 52-51. Echefu passed the ball into the left corner to Douglas who passed it quickly to Rich at the left elbow. Meanwhile Echefu worked his way through the zone defense receiving the ball from Rich and with a clear path to the rim put the ball in.
Five lead changes ensued over the next four minutes. Mims’ floater in the lane made it 55-53. But White hit a three from the left wing to take back the lead. Douglas blew a layup that rolled off the rim when he came in from the right side but tried to lay it in with his left hand. But Swann drove the lane and an up and under pt FSU back in front 57-56. Again White hit a timely three to give the Cougars a 59-57 lead with 2:43 remaining.
Echefu had a chance to tie the game at the line but only converted one.
It looked desperate for FSU fans when Douglas fouled White beyond the arc. But White only made two, missing the third attempt. Echefu hit two free throws to make it 61-60 with 1:44 left bringing life into the partisan crowd.
After Rich grabbed a rebound racing down the floor, Hamilton called timeout. Unfortunately Dustin Scott stole the inbound pass from Rich and once again deflated the FSU fans.
But as Charleston was running its set, Cremins called timeout with 17 seconds on the shot clock and 50 ticks on the game clock. That strategy backfired setting up the inbound pass stolen by Douglas to give FSU the 62-61 lead.
Leading the way for FSU was Echefu with 17 points along with 9 rebounds. Mims added 15 and both Douglas and Rich finished with 13.
So the 10-3 Seminoles breathed a sigh of relief, gutting out the win over a tougher team than most would expect, but knowing they still have work to do.
Next up for FSU. A Saturday road trip to Providence to take on the 6-3 Friars who boast wins over Boston College and Arkansas. Tip off is at 4:00 PM.