By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It would’ve made for a memorable debut.
Playing in his first collegiate game, Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes charged down the floor and launched a buzzer-beating 3-point shot that would’ve sent FSU and Northeastern to overtime.
The shot looked good out of Rathan-Mayes’ hand, but it hit the rim and spun out to seal a 76-73 win for the Huskies.
“I definitely thought it was going in,” junior guard Montay Brandon said. “Definitely. It just rimmed out.”
Which was a stark contrast from last year, when a last-second jumper by Devon Bookert lifted FSU to an early-season win over Northeastern.
FSU (1-1) on Monday shot 53.2 percent from the field and got double-digit contributions from Aaron Thomas (24), Montay Brandon (16) and freshman Phil Cofer (14).
But FSU coach Leonard Hamilton lamented the fact that, even though the Seminoles finished with a high shooting percentage, they also missed key shots at critical moments. FSU made just 2 of its 10 3-point attempts, compared to 9-of-15 for Northeastern.
Florida State led by as much as nine in the first half and held a three-point advantage with less than six minutes to play.
“I can’t fault our guys for taking wide-open, uncontested jump shots,” Hamilton said. “But, those things, we’ve got to knock them down.”
Northeastern (2-0), meanwhile, had a hot shooting night of its own.
Led by sophomore guard David Walker, the Huskies shot 54 percent from the field and touched up the Seminoles for 27 points from beyond the arc.
Walker, who stands at 6-foot-6, connected on all four of his 3-point attempts and finished with 22 points.
“Defensively, when a team is having a night like that, you have to step up,” Hamilton said. “I’m not sure we were as effective (defensively) as we have been in the past.
“They made us pay every time we made a defensive mistake.”
It took a remarkable 3-point shot from Thomas to put FSU in striking distance at the end.
The Huskies led 74-70 with 23 seconds to go, but Thomas connected on shot from well past the 3-point arc to cut the deficit to one. The Seminoles got the ball back after two NU free throws made it 76-73, but couldn’t come any closer.
“We still have room for improvement,” Hamilton said. “It’s early in the season. You’ve got to give Northeastern credit because I thought they did a tremendous job of maintaining their poise.”
Brandon finished 8 for 8 from the floor and also led FSU with seven rebounds, and Cofer continued to show promise with 14 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Rathan-Mayes had three assists in 16 minutes.
Florida State matched Northeastern in rebounds (30-30), had more assists (15) than turnovers (12) and even grabbed 11 steals.
It just wasn’t quite enough to outlast the Huskies.
“Sometimes you’ve got to give people credit for making shots,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes it’s not about what you didn’t do. Sometimes it’s about what they’re doing well.”
Next up for Florida State is a visit to Uncasville, Conn., where the Seminoles will face Providence on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., in the next round of the Naismith Hall of Fame Classic.
FSU will then take on Massachusetts Sunday at noon.
“We know it’s still early. We stubbed our toe,” Brandon said. “We’ve got to just get back and get ready for this weekend.”