March 26, 2011
|Seminoles Basketball Central|
SAN ANTONIO – For the 10th-seeded Florida State Seminoles their road to the Elite Eight was just 7.9 seconds away. After trailing for nearly the final 11:00 of the second half, Chris Singleton hit a three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining in regulation to send FSU’s Sweet 16 matchup with VCU to overtime. Then with 7.9 seconds left in the extra period the Seminoles were in front 71-70. That is when VCU’s Bradford Burgess slipped away from standout senior Derwin Kitchen to hit the game-winner, ending the Seminoles magical run in a 72-71 loss.
“It was a mistake on me,” said Kitchen following the loss in which he led the team with 23 points and 12 rebounds. “I was guarding Burgess and I turned my head the wrong way and he slipped, not knowing that the basket was going to be wide open. I thought we had somebody under. But I turned my head the wrong way and he slipped and he got a clean look at the basket.”
The Rams used one of the best shooting night’s of any FSU opponent this season to move into the Elite Eight. VCU connected on 12 three-pointers during regulation, tying the most that FSU allowed in any game in 2010-11, and the squad shot nearly 42% for the game. All this against an FSU team that came in to the night allowing teams to connect on just 36% from the field and only 30% from behind the arc.
“In the first place they hit some really tough shots, some shots when they were heavily contested,” said FSU Head Coach Leonard Hamilton. “A percentage of those shots I didn’t think we did a very good job of getting hands in their faces. A couple of shots they hit that were almost from the parking lot. They were way beyond NBA range, maybe three or four of them were almost out of bounds.
“But they are, for that kind of a shooting team, we had a clear understanding of that coming in. I think it’s a combination of them being good three point shooters, a combination of them making some tough shots. And also I didn’t think that it was one of our better nights in terms of defending the ball screen and getting back to their shooters. And there lies a 12 of 26 from three, 46 percent from the three point line. Sometimes you have to give teams credit.”
Covered up in the heartbreak of the OT loss was the way the Seminoles clawed and fought their way back into the game after shooting just 30% in the first half compared to 50% for VCU. Missed opportunities early in the contest kept the game close instead of allowing the Seminoles to build an early lead.
“I thought we dug a hole for ourselves in the first half, about nine point blank missed layups,” said Hamilton. “…When we had 14 off of rebounds and nine layups that we just couldn’t complete. Then the first half to be only down five, I felt pretty good.”
The missed buckets inside didn’t put FSU too far behind but it did prevent them from putting together a lead of their own heading into half rather than trailing by five. It also would have meant that the squad would not have to dig out of a nine-point hole with 7:37 left but thanks to a 12-3 run to end the second period FSU got a second chance to move on in the tournament.
“We had a chance to go down by ten when Joey Rodriguez was at the line,” said Singleton who played his most minutes since returning from injury. “He missed two free throws and came down and scored. And before that there was a timeout, we knew the only way to get back in the game with seven minutes to go. We knew we had to rely on our defense to get stops to try to execute on the offense.”
Both things happened down the stretch as the defensive intensity was ratcheted up and the offense came to life as the Seminoles missed just ten second half shots compared to 30 in the first 20 minutes, setting the stage for Singleton to hit a three that sent the game into OT.
In the extra period VCU led for a majority of the time until a late Seminole bucket by Singleton put FSU in front with 29 seconds remaining. The Rams missed a layup on a Bernard James block on the other end but were able to control the rebound calling a timeout with just 7.9 seconds left. That was when Joey Rodriguez found Burgess for the final points of the game.
“For me this was my last game,” said Kitchen. “So I’m kind of devastated. I wanted to keep it going as long as possible, and my college career, basically that last second shot, you feel pretty bad.”
“We thought all along that we had potential to go not only to the Sweet 16 but farther than we did,” said Hamilton. “We had some challenges with this team. There are some skills that we need to improve on in order for us to be maybe quite as efficient as we would like to be. But that’s kind of who we are…We’re following the guys coming and going, sometimes we sputtered, but we always seemed to bounce back. With each setback I think we kind of grew in character. With each time that we didn’t perform up to our capabilities, I thought they became closer together as a team.”