CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Hungry for a first Atlantic Coast Conference win that would snap a two-game skid and shake them out of a midseason lull, the Florida State Seminoles slogged through another slow start on the way to a 72-59 defeat at No. 12 Miami.
In what’s become a troubling trend over the last week, the Seminoles started 1 of 9 from the field as the Hurricanes built a 10-2 lead a little more than five minutes into the game.
Each time the Seminoles threatened to get back in it – they cut their deficit to two points late in the first half and three points early in the second – the Hurricanes had an answer.
And that final answer was emphatic.
After Xavier Rathan-Mayes’ layup trimmed Miami’s lead to 36-33 with 15:47 left in the game, UM launched a 15-1 run that brought the Bank United Center to a roar and effectively sealed FSU’s fate.
“I’m pleased with the effort, I’m just disappointed that we lost,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I thought we fought hard. I thought the kids stuck with our defensive game plan and our offensive game plan.
“It was just one of those nights where we had free throws that didn’t go in, we had wide-open jump shots that didn’t fall and we (missed) point-blank layups.”
The Seminoles are 0-3 in ACC play for the first time since the 2006-07 season. They’ll look to get back on track Wednesday when they visit North Carolina State (9 p.m., RSN).
“That’s a win we have to have,” Rathan-Mayes said.
Saturday marked the third time in as many conference games that the Seminoles sputtered out of the opening tip.
They fell behind 12-2 at Clemson last week and 13-3 against North Carolina on Monday.
Those deficits, while not insurmountable – FSU came back to tie Clemson and briefly led UNC – make for an awfully slim margin for error.
“It’s the best league in college basketball and when you get down 9, 10, 12 points, it’s hard to claw yourself back out,” Rathan-Mayes said. “And if you’re able to, you’ve used a lot of energy. So it’s tough.”
Saturday’s game was a bit of reversal from Monday’s, when the Seminoles scored in bunches against North Carolina but struggled to defend.
Instead, FSU couldn’t get much going on offense against Miami and failed to score at least 60 points for this first time this season.
The Seminoles shot just 35.4 percent from the field, made 2 of their 19 3-point attempts and had trouble finishing near the basket, too.
FSU did, however, reverse one area of concern by outrebounding the Canes, 39-38. That’s a big improvement from Monday, when UNC held a 50-33 advantage on the glass.
“We got shots that we wanted down the stretch,” Rathan-Mayes said. “Shots that we were consistently making, we didn’t make. Sometimes that’s how it’s going to be. But we’ve got to find a way to get around that.”
Malik Beasley led the Seminoles with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Dwayne Bacon and Rathan-Mayes each added 10 points.
Miami’s Sheldon McClellan led all scorers with 21 points, 20 of which came in the second half.
His 3-pointer from the top of the key midway through the second half stretched UM’s lead to 51-34, its largest of the game.
“Once (Miami) came out of that stretch where I thought we defended very well, they knocked down a perimeter shot or took the ball to the basket,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got to give them credit. … They made us pay every time we made a mistake.”
The key now, Hamilton said, is to keep things in perspective.
While FSU has lost three straight, two of those losses came against The Nos. 7 and 12 teams in the country. And with 15 league games to play, the Seminoles still have time to turn things around.
But with a visit to NC State up next, as well as difficult dates with No. 4 Virginia and No. 16 Louisville on the horizon, the upcoming path doesn’t appear much easier.
“We’ll come through this all right,” Hamilton said. “I see growth from the first ACC game to this game, and if we keep fighting and scratching and scratching and clawing, then we’ll start to getting some victories.”