TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) – The Florida State men’s basketball team rallied from a nine-point deficit in the first half against Louisville here Saturday afternoon, and dug out of a 10-point hole in the second.
The No. 22 Seminoles then decided to just skip that part in overtime, scoring the first six points of the extra period on the way to an 80-75 win over the 16th-ranked Cardinals at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
“We practice situations like this – either down 10, down seven, down three,” said sophomore Mfiondu Kabengele, who had 22 points to lead the Seminoles (18-5, 6-4 ACC) in scoring for the fifth time in eight games.
“And we just executed what we did in practice.”
The victory is FSU’s third over a ranked opponent this season, and it moves these Seminoles into some pretty impressive company: They’ve won five consecutive conference games for the first time since the 2011-12 team did it during its run to the ACC tournament title.
That FSU team eventually ran up seven straight wins. The current group will look to move closer to that total when it hosts Wake Forest on Wednesday (7 p.m., RSN).
“In the second half, I thought we just turned it up a notch,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Forced some turnovers, got some easy baskets. And that really probably made the biggest difference in the game.”
Saying that FSU only forced “some” turnovers might be a little too kind to Louisville (17-7, 8-3) .
All told, the Seminoles forced 23 turnovers – their most this season – and converted them into 32 points.
That was one of the ways that the Seminoles overcame deficits in shooting percentage (48.1-37.7), 3-point percentage (42.9-30.4), free-throw percentage (81.3-75.0) and rebounding (36-34).
“We were consistent in our principals,” said sophomore Mfiondu Kabengele, who led FSU with 22 points in a career-high 36 minutes. “That’s why we were able to create so many turnovers.”
Added Hamilton: “The kids are just finding a way to win. They’re realizing that defense is important. There’s no question that our defense won the game for us tonight.”
And what the Seminoles couldn’t make up for in points off of turnovers (which wasn’t much – they held a 32-5 advantage in that column), they accounted for at the free-throw line.
Because despite shooting a lower overall percentage than the Cardinals, the Seminoles got to the line 36 times and connected on 27.
That includes an 11-of-12 mark in overtime from the likes of Kabengele, Terance Mann, MJ Walker and Trent Forrest.
“The veteran guys stepped up and made the free throws,” Hamilton said.
Indeed, FSU’s 36 free-throw attempts were its most this season, and came, more than anything else, out of necessity.
After watching his team miss its first seven shots from the field and carry a 29.0 shooting percentage into the break (including 3-for-13 from 3-point range), Hamilton shifted gears and called for the Seminoles to run their offense to the basket.
It might not have always been successful – FSU missed 12 layups as part of its shooting effort – but, more often than not, Louisville was there to help the Seminoles’ cause with a foul.
“This one is tough to swallow,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “I feel like for the better part of the game we did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to win. Give Florida State a lot of credit for their pressure, their relentlessness on the glass.”
Mack, who faced FSU in each of the previous two seasons as the head coach at Xavier, then reeled off a list of three things that teams must do in order to beat the Seminoles:
Mack started to say that the Cardinals did two of those three things, then quickly amended it to just one.
And even that didn’t sound too emphatic.
“We kept them out of the lane for the most part, as best we could,” Mack said. “But the ability to keep them off the glass and the ability to handle their pressure were our undoing.”
Although Louisville finished with an overall advantage on the boards, the Seminoles grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. Some of which led to putback baskets, and others which led to fouls and points at the free-throw line.
“When you get on the offensive glass, it creates energy,” Kabengele said. “You can find a rhythm throughout the game, even though your shot’s not falling.”
Senior Terance Mann added 20 points and four rebounds for the Seminoles, while junior guard Trent Forrest did a little bit of everything with 15 points six rebounds and four assists.
Forrest’s output includes the layup that sent the game to overtime, as well as the pair of free-throws that provided the final margin.
As a result, the Seminoles are right back in the thick of the ACC race after fledgling near the bottom of the standings last month.
“It definitely means a lot to us, coming from where we came from,” Mann said. “We were 1-4 at one point. Just being able to stay together and kind of reset everything and get back to what we do is definitely good.”