Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
On a rainy night in Tallahassee, Michael Snaer reigned supreme again. For the second consecutive home game—and now 4th time in the last 12 months—Snaer proved once again he is king of the buzzer-beaters when he found nothing but net on a three ball from the left corner with 1.1 seconds left in the game and FSU (12-8, 4-3) down a point. Maryland (15-6, 3-5), who led for much of the second half, missed a half court heave and the Seminoles walked away with a sorely needed 73-71 victory, keeping NCAA Tournament hopes alive for another week.
Unlike last week against Clemson, where Snaer was inconsistent throughout but came up big in the end, this was probably his best overall game of the year. The senior finished with 19 points on 7-13 shooting—including 3-6 from downtown—while also chipping in 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and best of all, zero turnovers. After the game, there was plenty of praise for the man of the hour, and it no one doubted Snaer’s ability.
“Snaer is phenomenal,” said Mark Turgeon, Head Coach of Maryland. “You knew he was gonna make it. He’s made a lot of big ones.”
FSU freshman big man Michael Ojo felt much the same, answering with a simple “Yes” when asked if he thought Snaer’s shot would drop. “That was a really step-in-rhythm shot, and he shot it with confidence,” said the 7’1 center from Lagos, Nigeria.
Okaro White said “Definitely, definitely,” when asked if he just assumes Snaer’s last second shots will go in now.
And of course, Snaer, who showed much less emotion after hitting this latest game-winner than he did against Clemson, was confident as in himself as well. Asked if he was surprised the shot went in, Snaer simply said, “Not too surprised. I mean, by this point you hit a couple…you gotta sort of keep your composure at some point.”
It was a clean look,” Snaer continued. “I kind of knew it was going in…the credit really goes more to [Ian Miller]. I just had to stand there with my feet set and knock down an open jump shot.”
As exciting as the dagger from the corner was for the home crowd, this game was far more than just a last minute shot.
“It was really a great basketball game,” stated Turgeon. Unfortunately one team had to lose.”
Indeed, this one featured great plays throughout. Dez Wells, a sophomore transfer from Xavier, matched Snaer’s 19 points and the two looked like they were playing a game of horse down the stretch, with Wells making several big shots of his own. The physical guard scored the last seven points for the Terrapins, including a three-ball over Snaer’s outstretched arms with 1:57 to go in the game, allowing Maryland to take a temporary three-point lead. Turgeon called him “fantastic” when talking about Wells carrying Maryland for much of the second half. After the game, Snaer, the man mostly responsible for guarding Wells, talked about the sophomore’s ability.
“He’s a young guy,” said Snaer. “But he’s a really good talent; especially driving the ball…I really respect him.”
Of course, it’s easy to speak so nice of an opponent after you’ve coldly ripped out their hearts like a hit man. Predictably, the mood in the visitor’s locker room had a different feel.
“We felt like we were in control, but missed some opportunities,” said Turgeon. “It hurts because you invested so much. This was one we put a lot into…it’s just hard right now. Got guys crying in the locker room.”
Turgeon was correct. For a large chunk of the game, Maryland was in control. In fact, after taking a 46-45 lead with 13:36 to play in the game, FSU didn’t regain the lead—or even a tie—until Snaer’s last second shot. Shooting 53.6% from the field in the second half, certainly helped the Terrapins and their hot shooting was buoyed by yet another poor rebounding effort from the Seminoles (36-20, including 12-5 on the offensive glass).
So what allowed the Seminoles to hang in there and put themselves in position for the win? For starters, there was a fantastic free throw shooting performance by Okaro White, as the junior went 10-10 from the stripe including 8-8 in the second half. However, (and I’m a little shocked that I’m actually typing this), it was FSU’s execution on the offensive end, particularly a lack of turnovers, that ultimately made the difference. For the game, the young Noles finished with 14 assists and just 6 turnovers, with a stunningly low number—TWO—in the second half. This compared to 16 turnovers for Maryland, with Dez Wells matching FSU’s total all by himself.
After the game Coach Hamilton credited better focus and concentration, but also a simpler scheme.
“We didn’t turn the ball over,” Hamilton said, “and I though we scripted things a little bit better for our guys tonight.”
Hamilton further commented, “[We had a] much higher level of focus and concentration…they were more conscious, we executed a lot better. [The coaches] were more specific in our scripting to maybe accommodate for our inexperience.”
In addition, Hamilton gave his upperclassmen—particularly junior guard Ian Miller, who has been hobbled for most of the season with a foot injury—a lot of credit. “We got our three veterans…they really gave us major contributions and leadership.” Ian doesn’t practice anymore…so for him to come out and give us 10 points and…was a big difference in the game.”
Indeed it was. And with Duke coming to town on Saturday, the veterans will need to continue to contribute like they did tonight if FSU wants any chance of beating Duke for the fourth time in the last five meetings between the two schools.
Other Game Notes and Quotes:
Snaer went out early in the game with an apparent knee injury, but he obviously came back in and after the game said he felt fine.
Ojo looked more confident than I have ever seen. Vastly more. After the game he said for whatever reason he was much less anxious tonight. Also said that getting his first slam felt really good and that he wants a lot more. Like Turpin after the Clemson game, Ojo gave a lot of credit to Terrance Shannon for being an inspirational leader and getting him to step his game up.
Coach Hamilton expounded quite a bit on Ojo’s performance: “Michael’s play, even though he only played 14 minutes was huge.” “He’s been practicing much better. He wants to go out and earn his minutes. Tonight for whatever reason he was more relaxed. He has good hands, but he’s been fumbling the ball because he’s been so anxious.”
Kiel Turpin quietly had a nice game. 6 pts, 2 boards, and 3 blocks. Two HUGE free throws with 4:03 to go to keep FSU in striking distance.
Aaron Thomas didn’t stand-out in the box score, but he had two monster offensive rebounds in the second half, both the result of just staying with the play.
Coach Turgeon had some interesting comments regarding Alex Len after them game. Said they were begging him to step up, but he kept making silly fouls. And then there’s this: “Everybody says he’s one of our best…I keep reading about it.” “I didn’t even recognize him.”
Coach Ham talked a lot about Snaer and Miller. Here are some of the comments:
• “We’ve put him in a very very tough spot. It’s almost kind of unfair, because he’s the only senior.”
• “He’s having to become a facilitator, a go-to guy, and a leader on the floor.”
• “He wants us to be successful so bad…that sometimes you don’t always use good judgment.”
He also talked about how when Toney and Al were here he had a tendency to play them too much and wore them out by the end of the season. Said he is trying to learn from that and back off as much as possible so Snaer can finish with a great stretch run.
• “Ian is a very instinctive player. He has a good feel for the game. He’s one of the few guys who can ride a bicycle and not practice all week, and then come in and make the kind of plays he made.”
• “Thinking about playing him (miller) some at the point…seems to be a lot more comfortable there than he was earlier in the year.”