With the score tied early in the second half, the Florida State basketball team slowly began building its lead over No. 21 Florida.
Within four minutes, that lead became double-digits, and it stayed in the Seminoles’ favor until the final buzzer.
Despite a late rally from Florida, Florida State pulled away with an 83-78 victory on Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 10,029 in the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee.
Sophomore Dwayne Bacon posted a game-high 24 points and sophomore guard Terrance Mann chipped in a double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds).
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It was FSU’s third consecutive win in the series and ninth consecutive win this year. The Gators have now dropped two in a row.
“There was no doubt that it was important that we come out at halftime and separate ourselves a little bit,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “At least give us a little bit of breathing room. You’re never out of it and you’re never safe when you’re playing a team as dangerous as the University of Florida.”
And the Gators (7-3) kept it competitive down the stretch.
UF went on a late 10-4 run to cut FSU’s lead to three points with 1:37 left on the clock, with KeVaughn Allen sparking the flurry. The sophomore shooting guard scored eight of his 16 points in the 2:15 stretch, but the Seminoles (10-1) closed the game by making all six of their free throws down the stretch.
“We were playing in scramble mode,” UF coach Mike White said of the second half.
That has been a theme in all three of Florida’s losses this year — the other two to No. 5 Duke on Tuesday and now-No. 8 Gonzaga back Nov. 25.
In its three losses, UF has given up an average of 45 points in the second half and allowed opponents to convert 58.8 percent of their shots from the field.
In its seven wins, Florida has allowed its opponents to score an average of 32.9 points on 36.8 percent shooting in the closing 20 minutes.
“Just defensively,” White said, “it wasn’t quite there for us [against FSU].”
Senior point guard Kasey Hill led Florida with a career-high 21 points, with 15 coming in the first half.
FSU went into halftime holding onto a 36-34 lead after an opening 20-minute stanza that included seven ties and six lead changes, but Florida looked to have the momentum thanks to Hill.
With 13 seconds left in the half and FSU looking to take advantage of one final possession, Hill stripped the ball from Seminoles freshman guard Trent Forrest and took it the length of the court for a layup to cut UF’s deficit to two points and put a 7-0 Florida State run to a halt. UF scored 18 of its first-half points off nine FSU turnovers.
But FSU, which went 11 for 30 (36.7 percent) from the field in the first half, closed the game by making 55.2 percent of its second-half shots.
“They outplayed us,” Hill said. “They won the game. That was it.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Both teams will next compete on Saturday as part of the Orange Bowl Classic at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
FSU will face Manhattan at 1:30 p.m., with Florida’s game against Charlotte to follow. For Florida, it will be its final neutral-site game before making its home debut in the newly renovated O’Connell Center on Dec. 21.
▪ White was charged with a technical foul early in the second half.
▪ UF guard Canyon Barry, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, scored his 1,000th career point after sinking a pair of free throws with 7:43 left in the first half. Barry finished the game with six points on 2-of-10 shooting.