There were twenty lead changes and ten ties. Fortunately for Florida State there was not a twenty first lead change.
Solomon Alabi sank two free throws, the first with some dramatic flair bouncing it high off the rim to the top of the backboard and down into the net, to give the Seminoles a 67-66 lead with 22.8 seconds left.
Georgia Tech had two chances at a basket but Gani Lawal air balled a runner in the lane and the rebound was out of bounds off a Yellow Jacket with 5.3 ticks on the clock remaining.
Two seconds later Jordan DeMercy converted one of two charity shots and followed that up by intercepting the Hail Mary inbound pass to give the ‘Noles a hard fought 68-66 victory over the 19th ranked Jackets.
Following the game Leonard Hamilton laughingly agreed that it was just another typical blowout game in the ACC.
After Florida State took an early 10-2 lead, Tech came back to take the lead at 13-10. It was back and forth after that as the lead kept changing hands and always within a handful of points.
The score was tied at thirty-four all at halftime.
Hamilton commented afterwards “The game could have gone either way. But we made one more free throw. We got one more rebound. We made just one play better.”
Better was the operative word because at times it was ugly as both teams showed a propensity to turn the ball over. Florida State gave up the ball 18 times and Tech 20. The difference however was points off those turnovers with the Yellow Jackets getting only 10 points compared to FSU scoring 22 points off Tech’s miscues.
Free throw shooting was even uglier as both squads were under 60% from the stripe (FSU 16-27, 59%; GT 11-22, 50%).
“You have to give credit to Georgia Tech”, Hamilton said. “They created problems on defense for us with the various presses they ran at us. I don’t think we made good decisions, but we did not give up any points against those presses. Our turnovers were self-inflicted. We are inventing ways to turn the ball over.”
Hamilton credited Luke Loucks in handling the offense against the press.
Key in the win was FSU’s work on the boards with the ‘Noles outrebounding Tech 39-37. The Seminoles are now 13-1 when outrebounding its opponents.
Leading the way for FSU was Chris Singleton with a career high 23 points. Just 1 of 6 from behind the arc, Singleton was 9 of 17 from the floor overall scoring on numerous aggressive dribble drives. Attacking the basket also sent the sophomore forward to the free throw line often. But Singleton was unable to convert most of his opportunities with just 4 of 10 from fifteen feet.
Alabi scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half and Devidas Dulkys added 11 points.
Defensively the ‘Noles, as they did in Atlanta, held Tech’s potent combo of Gani Lawal (5) and Derrick Favors (10) to just fifteen total points.
It was Brian Oliver however who did his impersonation of NC State’s Scott Wood scoring 20 points off of six three pointers to lead Tech in scoring.
In the second half, FSU edged out a 45-38 lead at the 16:41mark after Dulkys hit a three from the top of the key. Tech answered with six straight points that included an intentional foul on Ryan Reid against Glen Rice Jr.
Four and half minutes later the Jackets tied it up at 47 and after the lead changed hands six times, Oliver’s contested three from the right wing gave the Jackets a 61-57 lead with less than seven minutes to play.
Key in that series that played a role in the waning minute of the game was Paul Hewitt calling his fourth timeout at the 8:21 mark. It would prove crucial in the final seconds as Hewitt had no more timeouts on the final two Tech possessions.
A 5-0 run by FSU with Reid knocking down two free throws and a jumper off the inbound pass gave FSU a 62-61 lead with 4:37 remaining.
The lead switched three more times before Hamilton called a timeout with 1:44 left in the game. Unfortunately the Seminoles did not convert on three straight possessions including a close charging call on Reid following the timeout.
Schumpert gave Tech a 66-65 lead on one of two free throws.
Things looked bleaker for FSU fans when Reid was called for his fifth foul sending Zack Peacock to the line with 27 seconds left. But Peacock missed both and Alabi was fouled on the rebound setting up his game winning free throws.
Hewitt’s fifth timeout was possibly even more crucial than his fourth calling it with 10.8 seconds left but right before Oliver canned a three from the left wing that would have given Tech a 69-66 lead. The side out inbound play led to Lawal’s air ball where Derwin Kitchen forced Lawal to the other direction and Alabi held his ground avoiding the foul.
With the win Florida State improves to 15-4, 3-2 and is all along in fifth place in the conference. Tech falls to 15-4, 3-3.
Up next for the Seminoles is a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium where Hamilton jokingly called it “no big deal, just a light piece of work”.
Tip off for Wednesday night’s game is at 9 PM and will be televised on ESPN.