FSU played great basketball for 39 minutes. The defense was crisp, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes guided an efficient offense against Clemson's excellent defense.
But basketball is a 40-minute game, and the final 60 seconds were a near disaster.
With Clemson fouling, Montay Brandon made four free throws in 20 seconds to give FSU a 12-point lead. There was 1:01 to play.
Clemson made a three. FSU turned it over. Clemson made a layup. FSU turned it over. When FSU did get a stop, freshman Phil Cofer was only able to make 1-2 at the line. After another Clemson three, the game became surreal.
As Cofer ran the baseline while inbounding the ball, he slipped on the logo that the Greensboro Coliseum put down for the tournament. He dropped the ball, which clearly landed out of bounds, but the refs let the play advance. Clemson picked it up and scored at the rim, and it was a one possession game.
XRM was fouled, but only made one of two. After Clemson cut the lead to two, FSU turned it over again. The defense rose to the occasion, however, and forced a stop. Unfortunately, Cofer only made 1-2 at the other end and Clemson had a chance to force overtime.
Just like the previous two games played in this tournament, the trailing team had the final possession and a chance to win or tie. And just like Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, Clemson was unable to capitalize as Gabe DeVoe missed a three, and the Noles advance.
FSU will play in their 9th consecutive ACC quarterfinal, which is the longest streak in the conference.
The near collapse obscured a brilliant game from XRM. He scored 30 (a school record for the tourney) on 11-19 shooting, adding four rebounds and two assists. Of his 30, 18 came in the second half when he looked unguardable.
Montay Brandon scored 17 in front of hometown fans, making 11-12 free throws. Phil Cofer had 10 points and seven boards.
The Noles now advance to face the top seed Virginia. The game will tip at noon, tomorrow, and will be broadcast on ESPN.