Just over eight minutes into the game, FSU looked lost. NC State led 19-5, and Florida State couldn't get out of their own way. Turnovers. Poor defense. But then Devon Bookert knocked down a three and Jarquez Smith came off the bench to score a quick four points, and the Noles at least had a pulse. Still, against a very good offense like NC State's, it was a long row to hoe. FSU found themselves down 12 at the break.
In the second half though, the fortunes turned. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, playing with his shooting wrist and thumb taped, looked perhaps the best he's looked this season. He was quicker than NC State's guards. He was aggressive. He played under control. Getting into the paint free'd Montay Brandon and his slashing game, and the Noles began chipping away at the lead. It was an 8-point lead at the second media timeout, a five point lead at the third, and then walk-on Brandon Allen's offensive board and put back tied the game at 60.
Unfortunately, that's where it ended. NC State, loaded with seven consensus top 100 players, flexed their muscle down the stretch. Trevor Lacey, playing all season like a 1st Team All ACC player, scored four straight to put it out of reach. The game ended on a cheap dunk by the Martin twins instead of dribbling out the clock, and the Wolfpack walked away with a 72-63 win.
The Noles are now 1-4 in conference.
Montay Brandon led FSU with 20 points and nine rebounds. With Malik Beasley watching from the stands, it's hard not to be bullish on Montay's season next year when he'll be playing with several guys who can spread out a defense. XRM played a very solid game, scoring 15, and adding five assists, five boards, and just one turnover. Bookert scored 11, but couldn't hit that big three down the stretch. Jarquez Smith played the middle for long stretches when FSU went small - perhaps previewing a common look for next year - and scored seven.
FSU travels to Clemson on Monday.