After 15 minutes of basketball this game looked like it was on a fast track to a blowout. UNC was scoring with ease, getting everything at the rim or on open 3-pointers. With less than five minutes left in the first half, the Tar Heels led 30-19. But then the Noles began to find something. After allowing UNC 30 points in their first 23 possessions, the Noles defense began to look a lot more crisp. Suddenly UNC wasn't able to get the ball inside as easily, and they had to settle for jumpers. The Noles made a little run capped by a Devon Bookert three, and the lead at half was just 35-31.
At that point, FSU's back court of Devon Bookert, Montay Brandon, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes had barely been rested. In fact, XRM only came out of the game for a brief moment while his hand was being treated after re-injuring it. It was fair to wonder how much the trio had left, especially considering the fact that they were up against a team with as much talent as any in the nation.
Sure enough, UNC used a quick spurt to take an 8-point lead in the 2nd half and it looked like FSU might roll over. But the opposite happened. Book, Brandon, and XRM proceeded to score 35 of FSU's next 39 points, keeping the Noles in it until the end. The effort level was clear to see by game's end, as all three guys looked like the walking wounded.
Freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes played his most inspired basketball at Florida State. Just in the game's final ten minutes he scored 19 points. Leonard Hamilton has talked about needing a player to step up and be The Guy since Aaron Thomas was declared ineligible, and today it seemed as if XRM is not only willing to be The Guy, but has settled into his roll enough to actually deliver. Despite having the ball for the duration of virtually every game, XRM - who suffered through serious turnover issues in the early part of the season - has now cut his turnovers to below 2.5 per game since ACC play began. His development over the course of the season has been profound.
XRM finished with 35 points which is the most scored by a Seminole since Al Thornton dropped 45 at Miami in 2007.
@TN_Hoops ties record for road ACC player in Smith Center. Len Bias is the other guy. If you want that for your story— Ivan Corriher (@IWCorriher) January 24, 2015
Rathan-Mayes made 5-11 3s and added five rebounds and four assists. Devon Bookert had 11 points and seven rebounds, and Montay finished with 9 points. Jarquez Smith also had a quietly impressive game. His seven points, six rebounds, and three blocks were nice, but more importantly he made multiple good plays off the ball that the coaches will pick up on film. His rotations were crisper than they have been, and he sealed the post on a couple of occasions to open up the lane for XRM and Montay to drive.
FSU is off until Wednesday when they host Wake Forest.