Saturday’s Orange Bowl Basketball Classic game between Florida State and No. 22 Massachusetts was a game of inches — 87 of them as a matter of fact.
That’s the height of FSU’s starting center, 7-3 Boris Bojanovski, who had a career-high seven blocks in just 16 minutes to lead the Seminoles to a 60-55 victory over UMass in front of an announced crowd of 11,214 at BB&T Center.
Bojanovski blocked two shots and altered another in the final 90 seconds, and those plays proved crucial to knocking UMass (10-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten.
FSU (8-3), which played Bojanovski and 7-1 Michael Ojo for a combined 35 minutes, had 12 blocks total.
“They were big and long and did a nice job of guarding the paint,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “One of our rules was to not let them block more than two or three shots. With 12, you can probably pinpoint that as the difference in the game.”
Kellogg added that he thought his team needed to shoot three-pointers well to negate FSU’s height.
UMass struggled from long range, making 1 of 15 three-point attempts. To be fair, neither team shot well at BB&T Center, which is normally used by the Panthers of the NHL. Both teams shot less than 37 percent.
FSU guard Aaron Thomas, coming off a career-high, 26-point game Tuesday against Charlotte, led all scorers with 18 points. But he did most of his damage at the foul line, where he went 8 of 8, including two free throws with three seconds left to ice the game.
“We were not really happy with the rims,” Thomas said. “They were not break-away rims. You were not able to get those shooters’ rolls. It was either miss or make it, so we had to go to the basket and get to the foul line.”
FSU did a solid job defending UMass point guard Chaz Williams, a quick 5-9 senior who came in averaging 16.3 points and 7.9 assists, ranking third in the nation in the latter category. The Seminoles held him to 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting and just two assists.
Cady Lalanne, UMass’ 6-10 center who gave up five inches in his matchup against Bojanovsky, had 10 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
But it was Lalanne, of Orlando, who twice had his shots swallowed up or altered by Bojanovsky in the final seconds.
Williams’ layup with 1:56 left gave UMass its final lead of the game at 55-54. The Minutemen had a chance to extend the lead with 1:20 remaining, but Bojanovsky blocked a Lalanne layup.
FSU point guard Ian Miller, who finished with just four points on 1-of-10 shooting, made two free throws with 1:06 left to put the Seminoles up for good.
Bojanovsky then blocked a Williams layup attempt with 46 seconds left and caused Lalanne to miss a dunk try — the ball went in, but the UMass center was whistled for hanging on the rim.
“I was about to be mad if that [was called good],” Bojanovsky said.
As it turned out, there was no reason for the Seminoles to be angry.
FSU knocked off a ranked team that was off to the fourth-best start in the 105-year history of Minutemen basketball.
FSU now returns home for a Dec. 30 game against Charleston Southern and its ACC opener against Virginia on Jan. 4.
• For the second time this season, FSU wore turquoise uniforms instead of its normal garnet and gold.
“The Seminole Tribe of Florida approached us about this program, and we are honored to wear these unique uniforms,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said on his school’s website. “The color is significant because it is deeply symbolic of friendship and community in the Native American culture.”