TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Malik Beasley’s slump is over.
And, apparently, so is Florida State’s
After scoring no more than 11 points in each of his last six games, Beasley dropped 20 on Saturday – 18 in the second half – to lead the Seminoles to a 78-73 victory over Syracuse at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
FSU finishes the regular season 18-12 (8-10 ACC) after back-to-back victories over Notre Dame and Syracuse.
The Seminoles look to sustain their momentum Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where they will face Boston College in the first round of the ACC tournament.
“Obviously we needed someone to make some shots from the perimeter to kind of loosen (Syracuse) up a little bit,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “The fact that Malik hit two or three shots, I thought he gained some confidence and it gave them an area of the floor that they had to cover.”
Syracuse (19-12, 9-9) led by four at halftime, but Beasley erased that lead in a hurry with three straight 3-pointers in the span of just one minute, 44 seconds.
His last 3-pointer gave FSU a 40-38 lead and the Seminoles never trailed again.
“It was nice to get my confidence back,” Beasley said. “That first one wasn’t supposed to go in. I got fouled and they didn’t call it. But once I saw the ball go in, it was a confidence booster for me and the team.”
A back-in-form Beasley is welcome news for the Seminoles and a potentially frightening development for the rest of the ACC.
The star freshman shot just 29 percent (17 of 59) during FSU’s five-game losing streak last month, and was only 1 of 4 from the field last week against Notre Dame.
But Beasley on Saturday looked a lot more like the player who scored in double-figures in each of the season’s first 24 games.
“He’s a great shooter,” fellow freshman Dwayne Bacon said. “The last game, he had a bad shooting night, but he’s a great shooter, no matter what. Even the best shooters have bad shooting nights. Everybody was just looking at him because he was hot.”
With Beasley pulling Syracuse’s 2-3 zone toward the perimeter, FSU’s shooters found a soft spot near the free throw line.
Bacon, Jarquez Smith and Xavier Rathan-Mayes all did damage with mid-range jumpers, and the Seminoles made 60 percent of their two-point field goal attempts.
Bacon and Rathan-Mayes each scored 16 points, while Smith and Terance Mann chipped in eight apiece.
“They got in the lane, they did a better job moving, they made some shots,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “That was a big difference.”
So too was FSU’s 43-26 rebounding advantage, its biggest surplus since beating Boston College in January.
The Seminoles’ dominance on the glass allowed them nine second-chance points and also created some transition baskets that kept the Orange from settling into its half-court defense.
“Our defense and transition game allowed us to start running,” senior guard Devon Bookert said. “This time, we tried to move the ball around and did better in penetration.”
Beasley’s free throw stretched FSU’s lead to 71-61 with just 2:22 to go and the Seminoles appeared to be well on their way to a comfortable win.
But Syracuse immediately struck back for a 12-4 run that cut its deficit to 75-73 with 32 seconds to play.
Rathan-Mayes then missed a free-throw to ensure that Syracuse would have a chance to tie the game. But Syracuse’s Trevor Cooney – a 34-percent 3-point shooter – missed from range and Mann pulled down the rebound to seal the game.
Hamilton had just subbed in Mann before that sequence.
“You look pretty good when you put a guy back in and he goes and gets the rebound and brings the ball back out,” Hamilton said with a laugh.
Mann did a little bit of everything on Saturday, posting eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block.
FSU’s three seniors – Bookert, Boris Bojanovsky and Montay Brandon – were mostly quiet on the stat sheet after being honored in a pre-game ceremony for Senior Day.
But Bookert and Bojanovsky in particular contributed on defense and helped swing the game by chasing down loose balls and tipping out missed shots that led to extra offensive chances.
“Boris and Bookert, they did not allow their lack of offensive productivity to affect their energy and their execution on the defensive end,” Hamilton said. “They kept playing. That’s what seniors are supposed to do.”