Feb. 13, 2013
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Managing Editor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The game looked a lot different than the last time these two rivals met; unfortunately for the Florida State men’s basketball team, the only thing that remained the same was the official outcome.
Five games after being blown out in Miami, the ‘Noles gave the No. 3/4 ‘Canes — arguably the nation’s hottest team — a scare Wednesday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center, erasing a double-digit deficit midway through the second half before ultimately falling, 74-68, in hard-fought fashion.
“I was proud of the spurts that we had; that we were fighting real hard,” FSU junior forward Okaro White said. “I was very proud of that because that just shows that we can play hard and we can compete.”
FSU (13-11, 5-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) simply didn’t have enough firepower down the stretch to combat the Hurricanes’ conference player of the year candidate at point guard, Shane Larkin, and their size in the paint. Already without Terrance Shannon down low, 7-foot-3 freshman Boris Bojanovsky was injured early in the game and did not return after 292-pound Miami center Reggie Johnson came crashing down upon him. White also wasn’t available in the tense late-game moments after fouling out with 2:04 remaining.
The Seminoles’ depleted front court meant that Kiel Turpin and still-learning rookie Michael Ojo had to handle the rigors of playing around the basket against a physical team. Miami (20-3, 11-0), which now owns the nation’s longest active winning streak among the six power conferences with 12 straight victories, got a combined 24 points from low-post players Johnson and Julian Gamble.
That offensive output helped counteract the ‘Noles’ valiant effort down low as the home team actually won the rebounding battle 26-22 and was only outscored around the basket 36-30.
“We’ve got each other’s backs,” Ojo said. “If anybody is injured, if anybody is in foul truoble you have to trust your teammate that they can do the job.”
As for Larkin, he finished the game with 22 points and some big second-half shots.
White led the way for an FSU team that shot 46.2 percent compared to Miami’s 63.8-percent clip from the field. The junior forward finished with 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds despite missing the final two minutes.
Devon Bookert had perhaps the best start-to-finish game of his young career as the freshman point guard started and played 28 minutes, finishing with 12 points and just one turnover. Michael Snaer, Ian Miller and Kiel Turpin each scored nine and Terry Whisnant III came off the bench to add eight of his own.
“Seventy percent of the game I thought that we did a pretty good job of executing from of an offensive standpoint what we had in our gameplan,” FSU coach Leonard Hamliton said. “Thirty percent of the time I thought we made poor decisions with the ball. We turned it over at some inopportune times.”
Whisnant didn’t play at all in the first half but that didn’t stop the sweet-shooting sophomore from burying back-to-back 3-pointers on his first two shots of the game to help FSU get within a 51-47 score with 11:31 left.
Miami had led by as many as 11 points in the first half but saw that advantage dwindle to 51-49 moments later thanks to Whisnant’s two free throws. Then Ojo snagged a defensive rebound and White tipped in Miller’s missed shot attempt on the opposite end to tie the score at 51-51 with 10:08 remaining.
But back-to-back Gamble dunks put the ‘Canes back on top for good despite one last FSU charge. Bookert’s and-one opportunity cut Florida State’s deficit to 69-66 with 51 seconds left and then the Alaska native grabbed a defensive rebound before feeding Miller for the would-be game-tying 3-pointer. But Miller’s shot circle the inside of the rim before popping out and Miami escaped with the victory.
Bookert’s second career start was part of revamped starting five for the Seminoles that also included Snaer, Ojo (making the first start of his career), Aaron Thomas and White and that group energetically raced to a 13-2 early lead. But Miami chipped away and all of a sudden had the game tied at 18-18 before a near four-minute ‘Noles scoring drought coincided with a ‘Canes hot streak.
After White’s two free throws halted the first-half skid, Miller was fouled and sent crashing hard to the floor before converting the and-one opportunity to make it a 27-23 ballgame. But Miami answered and took a 38-30 lead into halftime despite Bookert’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer capped off the opening period.
The Hurricanes shot nearly 74 percent in the first half while FSU shot 41.7 percent. The ‘Noles were outscored 20-10 in the paint in the opening 20 minutes, too.
“When you are winning you can learn a few things but I think you learn more after a loss,” White said. “So after playing hard the whole game I thought we learned a little bit.”
Florida State is back in action Saturday at noon at the Tucker Center when Boston College comes to town. To purchase tickets, click here or call 1-888-FSU-NOLE.