Alone on the perimeter, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon launched a three-pointer to tie the game against the 12th-ranked Hurricanes.
The shot clanged off the iron, and the University of Miami pushed the lead back to five with 16:05 left in Saturday’s game. Two minutes later, the Seminoles again held the ball down just a single possession. And again, Florida State failed to convert.
That’s when the wheels came off for Leonard Hamilton’s young team that features two freshmen and a sophomore in the starting five.
“Our team played hard,” Hamilton said. “I just thought that we got beat by a team that was a little bit more mature, made better decisions and was a lot more consistent when they had offensive opportunities than we were.”
Florida State would convert just one field goal to Miami’s seven during the next 5:58. The Hurricanes took advantage of the shooting discrepancy – and three FSU turnovers – to tear off a 17-3 stretch and push the lead to 53-36. The Seminoles rallied in the game’s final minutes but would get no closer than eight.
Miami’s Sheldon McClellan, who went 7 for 7 in the second half en route to 21 points, said he told his teammates early in the second half that finishing the game would hinge on defense. With the Seminoles in striking distance, he reminded them of last year’s game, in which Miami almost blew an 18-point lead.
“Don’t let what happened last year happen this year,” said McClellan of his message to his team. “We locked in, got some key stops, got some key rebounds, got out on the break, and that kind of gave us some breathing room.”
The Seminoles missed opportunities earlier, as well. In the first half, Florida State cut Miami’s lead to 20-18 with 8:50 remaining. But over the next 6:14, the Seminoles scored just one field goal during a 1-of-9 stretch. The combination of rushed shots, poor decision-making and an inability to finish at the rim prevented the Seminoles from closing the gap. Hamilton said after the game he noticed 12 point-blank misses for the Seminoles in the first half alone.
And yet as the game fell out of reach, Florida State’s youth continued to show signs of promise on Saturday. Freshmen Bacon and Malik Beasley and sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes combined for 33 of FSU’s 59 points.
But the trio also turned the ball over six times and shot a combined 1-of-11 from 3-point range. Hamilton said afterward he recognizes the performance as part of the maturation process.
“We’ve been very consistent shooting from 3 the last two or three games,” Hamilton said. “We had the same looks today, and [they] just didn’t fall. That’s part of growing up and learning and developing.”
Against a senior-led, experienced Miami team, Florida State found out just how far the process is from over.