Florida State is turning big first half deficits into a habit. They fell behind by 15 against Wake. They were down 11 versus North Carolina. At one point NC State led by 19.
The second halves though, those have a been a different story.
Behind sloppy play and poor defense from FSU, the Canes were able to build a 30-14 lead. And even after watching the Noles make multiple big comebacks in recent games, this one seemed like it was out of hand. Miami was knocking down 3s. Florida State turned the ball over 11 times in their first 22 possessions. It was ugly basketball in front of the home fans.
Then the switch got thrown.
From the 2:45 mark of the first half until the 18:10 mark of the 2nd, Florida State scored 18 points in seven possessions, capped by a Montay Brandon steal and dunk followed by a Brandon three pointer. A few possessions later Montay Brandon jumped the passing lane again, and this time with 7-footer Tonye Jekiri riding his hip, through down a massive dunk to bring the crowd to life and cut the lead to four.
For the next ten minutes, FSU was able to maintain, but never able to get over the hump and cut it closer than a 3-point game.
That changed when Boris Bojanovsky's long reach deflected a ball on the defensive end. FSU pushed and got it to Devon Bookert on the wing. Making his best play of the day, Bookert drove into a triple team at the basket, and calmly hit Jarquez Smith with a no-look pass for an and-1 dunk. Smith tied it at the line.
FSU's defense finally looked like a Leonard Hamilton defense, and Miami couldn't get anything going. Bojo and Kiel Turpin were especially effective in cutting off the drives of Miami's guards. The Canes were only able to manage a free throw and a ridiculous Sheldon McClellan step back 17-footer.
With the Noles up one, FSU had a chance to increase the lead to three in the final seconds, but Xaver Rathan-Mayes' step through came up short and Miami had a chance to win. They looked corner first, but that was shut down, and on the ball reversal McClellan fumbled the pass with four seconds left. He recovered, but his tough runner at the buzzer bounced off and the Noles won, 55-54, outscoring Miami 41-24 over the final 30 possessions of the game.
Montay Brandon, who had a massive 2nd half, led FSU with 18 points, six rebounds, and three steals. He made all seven shot attempts from the field. Kiel Turpin was the only other Nole in double figures, with 10. XRM had a quiet game, scoring just five, but he had six boards and only turned the ball over once.
FSU (12-10, 4-5) is now in a five team pack in the middle of the ACC of teams with four or five losses. One of those teams, Clemson (13-8, 5-4), plays at FSU on Wednesday.