March 16, 2012
James scored a career-high 19 points in the win while also grabbing nine rebounds and registering three blocks.
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With its leading scorer uncharacteristically corralled and its magical post-season run on the brink of a premature ending, the No. 10 Florida State men’s basketball team put its championship hopes on Bernard James’ broad shoulders.
And FSU’s 6-foot-10 senior center delivered.
In a 66-63 come-from-behind win over 14th-seeded St. Bonaventure Friday in Nashville, Tenn., James’ career-high 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting prevented the potential bracket-busting upset. It also helped mask what was the rarest of days for Seminoles (25-9) junior guard Michael Snaer, who was held scoreless for the first time in his collegiate career.
“We really needed our bigs to step up and I was able to get some post catches and finish some plays,” James said. “Get a couple of offensive put-backs on rebounds. I just like felt like I did what my team needed. I played as hard as I could.”
James’ biggest put-back of the game was his dunk after Luke Loucks’ contested and missed lay-up with 6:54 left in the game and the ‘Noles trailing 50-52 to a St. Bonaventure (20-12) team that had led since scoring the first basket of the ballgame.
Tied at 52-52 following James’ slam, sophomore Ian Miller shrugged off his own shooting woes to coldly sink a 3-pointer with 5:06 left in the ballgame to give FSU its first lead and one it wouldn’t relinquish.
“Ian really has no conscience shooting the ball,” Loucks said. “Sometimes that will get him in trouble but that’s what he’s in the game for. He’s an unbelievable scorer. He can score in bunches and every time he’s open I don’t think anyone would argue we want him to shoot the ball.”
Miller wasn’t the only ‘Noles player to step up in the most crucial of moments. After Loucks hit a 3-pointer to extended FSU’s lead to 58-52, sophomore Okaro White’s dunk punctuated his team’s 12-0 run.
But White wasn’t done.
After Bonnies star forward and projected first-round NBA draft pick Andrew Nicholson made a 3-pointer with 1:45 left, White answered with his own make from long distance. Then, after Demetrius Conger drilled a 3-pointer cut St. Bonaventure’s deficit to just 65-63 and Deividas Dulkys missed a free-throw on the one-and-one attempt, White came to the rescue with a flying offensive rebound.
Loucks was then intentionally fouled and made one free throw and the FSU defense answered by stifling the Bonnies on their final possession to preserve the comeback win.
“That single play was the most important play of the game,” Loucks said about White’s timely rebound.
Loucks finished the day with 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and three steals while White aded nine points. Both Miller and Dulkys scored eight points apiece.
Snaer’s goose egg in the box score was the biggest anomaly for the ‘Noles in Nashville. Not only had he never been held scoreless before but he had scored in double figures in eight consecutive games and 26 of FSU’s 33 contests prior to Friday.
Florida State’s leading scorer may have had an off day but St. Bonaventure’s top player was certainly “on” against FSU.
Nicholson finished with a game-best 20 points, including 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point distance. But after starting 7-of-9 from the floor, Nicholson missed 10 consecutive shots and only made three shots total in the second half.
As a team, St. Bonaventure shot just 35.5 percent in the second half after the starting the game shooting 46.2 percent in the opening period. The Bonnies’ hot shooting had FSU in an unfamiliar position at halftime: trailing. FSU hadn’t been at a disadvantage at the break since losing on the road to Miami — a span of five games.
“Their the fifth-best defensive team in the country,” Bonnies coach Mark said, before giving credit to his own scrappy team for being in position to win against the champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Florida State will now play sixth-seeded Cincinnati Sunday after the Bearcats defeated Texas, 65-59, in the early game at Bridgestone Arena.
The athletic Cincinnati squad presents another challenge for an FSU team has faced quite a few of those this season.
“We are battled tested,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Tip-off time for Sunday’s game will be approximately 9:40 p.m. ET.