NEW YORK – For all the shots that Braian Angola-Rodas made here on Friday night – and he made several, a career-high five to be exact – it was the last one he missed that left him shaking his head.
With 33 seconds to play and the Seminoles trailing by five in their ACC tournament semifinal against Notre Dame, Angola-Rodas pulled up for a 3-point shot that, had it gone in, would have cut FSU’s deficit to one possession for the first time since early in the first half.
Angola-Rodas had already made four shots from 3-point range as part of a startling 17-point outburst, and this one looked good, too. But instead of finding the net, the ball bounced a little too strong off the back of the rim and fell away.
The Fighting Irish then went on to solidify their lead at the free-throw line and close out a 77-73 victory at the Barclays Center.
“When it came out of my hands, I was like, ‘It’s going in,’” Angola-Rodas said. “Then it just went in and out.”
Dwayne Bacon scored 18 points and Jonathan Isaac added 15 rebounds for FSU, which will return to Tallahassee today and learn its NCAA tournament destination on Sunday.
Notre Dame will meet Duke in Saturday’s ACC championship gam
“What we have to do is move on to the next level,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Each time you falter, there’s a possibility that you can grow and learn from it. Hopefully, that’s what we’ll do this time. We normally bounce back pretty good.”
That FSU was even in position to give the Irish a scare is a testament to the Seminoles’ second-half resolve and to Angola-Rodas’ surprising heroics.
A junior guard who averages 11.5 minutes per game, Angola-Rodas logged 24 minutes on Friday. And he made the most of them by erupting for a new career scoring high, all of which came in the second half.
With FSU attempting to rally from a 16-point halftime deficit, Angola-Rodas scored 10 straight points and accounted for 16 of 17 during an extended stretch.
“The coaches kept telling me to stay aggressive and my teammates gave me the ball in the right spots to hit some shots,” he said. “After I hit the first one I was like, ‘Keep going, keep going.’ I was trying to keep us in the game.”
The only trouble? As Angola-Rodas made shot after shot, so, too, did the Fighting Irish.
In what’s become a frustrating trend for Florida State, Notre Dame once again tormented the Seminoles from the 3-point line.
Led by four 3-pointers from Steve Vasturia and three apiece by Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan, the Fighting Irish hit 13 of 27 (48.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
Eight of those 3s came in the first half, which, along with FSU’s own shooting struggles, allowed the Irish to lead by as much as 18 points before the break.
“We lost to a team that played extremely well, a team that shot the ball exceptionally well – as well as any team that we played this year,” Hamilton said.
“And that’s kind of what Notre Dame does.”
Especially against the Seminoles. In three games against FSU this season, Notre Dame has made 35 of 70 (50 percent) 3-point attempts. The Irish usually average 38.7 percent.
With the Fighting Irish shooting so well from outside, it was only a matter of time before FSU’s defense was forced to pay more attention to the perimeter and less attention to All-ACC forward Bonzie Colson.
In an effort to corral Colson, who scored 33 against FSU last month, Hamilton started Phil Cofer in place of Michael Ojo, with the hope that a smaller, more athletic lineup might keep Colson off-balance.
And, for a while, it worked. FSU held Colson without a single field-goal attempt for the game’s first 10:39. But as the Irish drained one 3-pointer after another, the Seminoles had no choice but to focus their efforts outward.
When they did, Colson took advantage. He broke through for 11 points before halftime on his way to a team-high 18.
“Once everybody else starts hitting shots then you’ve kind of got to worry about them, and then Bonzie gets going,” FSU sophomore Terance Mann said. “They’re a very good team. They’re put together very well.”
The Seminoles were much better in the second half, but each time they threatened to complete their rally, the Irish had a response.
FSU trailed by 14 at the start of Angola-Rodas’ run midway through the second half. By the time it was over, though, it had had trimmed its deficit to just eight thanks to a string of 3-pointers by Vasturia, Ryan and Rex Pflueger.
“Every time they made a run in the second half, we really answered,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.