Florida State was seemingly in control of the game leading Georgia tech 52-45 with 3:58 left in the game. But the ‘Noles would only score one more basket while Tech chipped away tying the game at 54 with half a minute left.
On a play designed for Derwin Kitchen to attack the basket, Tech switched up its defense and Kitchen found himself being guarded by the 6-10 Derrick Favors. Instead of a game winning basket a turnover resulted by Kitchen and the Yellow Jackets could not get off a last second attempt thus sending the game into overtime tied at 54 all.
In the extra period Tech took an immediate lead when Zack Peacock hit a three pointer from the left corner even with Devidas Dulkys’ hand in his face.
But as they had done all game long, Florida State answered with back-to-back baskets by player of the game Ryan Reid with assists from Kitchen.
Peacock tied it up again at 59 with 1:37 left. It was the last points the Yellow Jackets would score.
Reid found a wide open Chris Singleton who flew down the lane banking in the shot to give FSU a 61-59 lead with one second left on the shot clock.
Kitchen was fouled after grabbing an air ball by D’Andre Bell. Missing the second attempt, Brian Oliver failed to block out Kitchen who was fouled once again after rebounding his own miss. FSU led 63-59 after Kitchen converted one of two from the line again. But only 27 ticks remained on the clock.
In what was another play indicative of Reid’s performance, on the subsequent possession the senior forward stepped into the lane to take a charge by Mfon Udofia.
Luke Loucks made one of two after being fouled on the inbound pass giving FSU a five point lead.
To finish off the 7-0 run and the game Kitchen raced up the floor lobbing the ball to Jordon DeMercy for the slam on a three on one break giving the ‘Noles a 66-59 win in the opener of conference play.
Leonard Hamilton called it a “really, really tremendous effort.”
“I was proud of the guy’s defense at the end”, Hamilton said. “We had some boo-boos but we executed down the stretch.”
The defense didn’t just execute down the stretch though. The Seminoles’ defense held Tech’s two leading scorers who combine for 30 ppg to just 12 points.
Reid in particular was extremely effective in holding Gani Lawal to only four points on 1 of 7 shooting.
It was also the first time this season Favors had been held to less than ten points (8).
“We had our hands full with Georgia Tech’s big men “, Hamilton commented. “We had a game plan and we stuck with that game plan. We have a defensive system of certain principles and rules. And we stuck to those rules and principles.”
Primary among those rules was to seal off the passing lanes thus keeping the ball out of the hands of Favors and Lawal and away from the basket for easy slam dunks.
Commenting on Reid’s stellar play in scoring a career high 17 points in addition to his defense Hamilton said, “Ryan’s defensive effort on Lawal was tremendous.”
“He (Reid) gave us good direction and leadership.”
Joining Reid in double figures for the ‘Noles was Dulkys with 12 points and Singleton with 10.
In a game that featured a lot of tall timber around the paint, where there was a combined 18 blocked shots, both teams found scoring points to be difficult right from the outset. With neither team shooting especially well, both squads were under 30% from the floor at the half with FSU holding a 27-22 margin.
FSU’s offense in the second half, though, got untracked by working the ball inside more effectively and converting their chances. Hamilton reinforced to the team at the half that they were getting good looks and to just keep shooting. The advice paid off as the ‘Noles were better at finishing around the basket shooting nearly 50% in the second half.
Following Peacock’s floater to put Tech up 37-36, FSU went on a 9-0 run, 45-37.
Reid’s layup with the assist from Singleton at the 3:58 mark put the ‘Noles up 52-45. But Reid who was fouled on the play could not convert the traditional three point play.
In fact, free throw shooting in the second half could have avoided overtime altogether if FSU had made just any one of the six attempts they had from the stripe. After shooting 8 of 10, FSU was an abysmal 4 of 13 in the second half and overtime.
Solomon Alabi had an opportunity to extend a two-point Florida State lead with 44 seconds left but could convert neither attempt.
Hamilton called it an “emotional, big game,” one in which he felt his team grew a little tonight. “This is a game that will build confidence and one that we can build off of.”
With the win over the 15th ranked Yellow Jackets FSU improves to 10-2, 1-0.Up next for the ‘Noles will be Hamilton’s alma mater, Tennessee Martin. Tipoff is at 7 PM at the Donald L. Tucker Center on Tuesday, December 22. The game will be televised on FSFL.