TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Last season, Dwayne Bacon beat the Florida Gators by making a mid-range jump shot with less than five seconds to play.
A year later, Bacon didn’t beat any buzzers, but the results were no less devastating.
A sophomore from Lakeland, Bacon scored 24 points – including 16 in the second half – to lead Florida State to an 83-78 victory over No. 21 Florida in the Fresh From Florida Sunshine Showdown on Sunday afternoon at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
FSU is 10-1 for the first time since 2008-09 and has won three straight over the Gators (7-3) for the first time since 2006-08.
“It means a lot for the school,” said sophomore forward Terance Mann, who earned his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. “And, for the fans, they get to talk their stuff to the Florida fans.”
And talk they did.
As the clock ticked toward zero, chants of “Just like football” rained down from most of the 10,029 fans in attendance, a joyous jab in celebration of a Seminole sweep over Florida State’s fiercest rival.
Dating back to Nov. 26, FSU’s athletics programs are 4-0 against Florida. That stretch includes a 31-13 win in football, a 3-2 triumph in volleyball and an 83-58 victory in women’s basketball.
This is a big game for our school, our state,” Bacon said. “It’s always been the most important rivalry for Florida State. This is a big game because we see these guys every year and we play them once. It’s not like Miami, where we play them twice, there and at home. We play (UF) once. “It’s a great opportunity for me. I knew, coming here, getting a chance to play Florida was going to be a big dream.”
He’s been a nightmare for the Gators.
Bacon has scored 24 in each of his two games against UF, and it’s hard to decide which of his two performances were better.
He was virtually unstoppable on Sunday, especially in the second half where he shot 7 of 11 from the field.
And the box score doesn’t show the way Bacon hit off-balance jumpers with the shot clock winding down.
Or how he crossed up UF’s Canyon Barry for a layup and then drew a foul for a three-point play that extended FSU’s lead to 68-56 just a few moments after the Gators had cut their deficit to seven.
“He made some huge shots,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s a very good basketball player.”
Asked when he knew Bacon would be a problem, UF coach Mike White laughed and said, “When he walked on the court for warmups.”
“He’s really, really talented,” White continued. “He broke down our defense again.”
Florida State led 36-34 at halftime and, sparked by a 14-6 run to begin the second half, led by as much as 13 with 11:51 to go.
The Gators, however, rallied down the stretch and closed within three points on two separate occasions.
The late-game drama provided Mann the stage for his biggest play of the night: a leaping rebound over the head of Barry after UF sharpshooter KeVaughn Allen missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 45 seconds on the clock.
Barry hit the floor and came up bleeding from his face, but officials ruled that it was Mann who had been fouled. He then made two free throws to extend the lead back to two possessions.
“Terance has kind of turned out to be the leader,” Hamilton said. “All the tough, hard-nosed plays that have to be made, he always seems to come up with them.”
Florida made just one of its last five field-goal attempts and even that – a surprise 3-pointer from center John Egbunu – could only trim FSU’s lead to four.
Jonathan Isaac then hit two free throws with five seconds left to seal the game.
Isaac had nine points and six rebounds in his first game after missing the last three contests with an injury.
“We had some moments where that we were indecisive, but I thought we had quick recoveries,” Hamilton said. “We showed the ability to recover quick when we make mistakes. This is the type of game that will help you grow up a bit.”
Florida State emerges 4-0 from a stretch of four games in eight days, and, with a win over the Gators in the books, has a strong case to be ranked in this week’s top 25.
The Seminoles have a week off for final exams before heading south to take on Manhattan at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla.
“The good thing about our team is we have so much room for improvement,” Hamilton said. “We still have a lot of growth. So I’m encouraged that the potential is there for us to keep getting better.”