By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Florida State made one of its most impressive comebacks in recent memory Monday night against Nebraska.
The Seminoles just couldn’t quite finish it.
FSU whittled an 18-point deficit to just 1 late in the second half but couldn’t get over the hump in a 70-65 loss to the Cornhuskers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Seminoles (3-4) shot 40.7 percent from the field, but made just 2 of 18 3-point attempts.
“I thought we dug a hole for ourselves in the first half that couldn’t get back out of,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We fought in the second half, did a much better job of executing the game plan than we did in the first half.”
Xavier Rathan-Mayes had 17 points – all in the second half — to lead the Seminoles (3-4) in scoring for the third time in the last four games.
Boris Bojanovsky added a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Aaron Thomas scored 11 off the bench in his first game back from an illness that sidelined him for nine days.
Hamilton said he learned that Thomas, who left with dizziness at halftime of the UMass game on Nov. 23, would be available on Monday afternoon.
From there, it was a scramble to walk Thomas through the game plan in hopes of getting him ready on short notice.
“For him to come out there and play 29 minutes with the effort that he gave us, with very little practice and preparation, is extremely encouraging,” Hamilton said.
“It can be (tough to come back so quickly),” Thomas said. “I wasn’t even worried about me.”
Even still, FSU continued to feel the absence of its best 3-point shooter, junior guard Devon Bookert, who missed his fourth straight game with a foot injury.
After an 11-percent effort from beyond the arc Monday, the Seminoles are mired in a 4-for-38 3-point slump across their last two games.
“That’s a perfect formula for (Nebraska’s) defense,” Hamilton said. “Because they’ll give you those 3s and cut down on what you have inside.”
And when the Seminoles did get inside and draw contact, they often couldn’t convert at the free-throw line.
They made only 19 of 32 free throws, compared to 15 of 19 for Nebraska.
Hamilton said that this year’s Seminoles practice free throws as well as any team he’s had. But, for some reason, that hasn’t yet translated to the games.
“Sometimes you struggle, sometimes you don’t,” Thomas said. “We’re in a hole right now. I’m pretty sure we’re going to get out of this hole, shooting-wise.”
Terran Petteway scored a game-high 25 points and Shavon Shields added 21 for Nebraska.
The duo accounted for 66 percent of Nebraska’s offensive production.
“They have two guys that are probably going to play in the NBA, and they played like it tonight,” Hamilton said. “They played like all-conference, all-star-type players.”
FSU actually erased its deficit with relative speed.
Petteway’s layup made it 39-21 with 19:42 to go in the second half. The Seminoles were within two possessions, at 47-41, at the 11:28 mark.
A pair of free throws by Thomas had FSU down by just one with 2:18 to go, but the Seminoles could get no closer.
A David Rivers layup, followed by a 3-point miss by Rathan-Mayes and a 3-pointer from Tarin Smith gave the Cornhuskers all the breathing room they needed.
“We came out sluggish,” Thomas said. “We can’t wait until we’re down double-digits to try to dig ourselves out of the hole. We’ve got to start playing hard and go from there.”
Next up for FSU is a home date with Central Florida (4-1) at 2 p.m. on Saturday.