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FSU basketball escapes huge upset in home opener

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Seminoles bounce back after porous 1st half vs. Western Carolina.

NCAA Basketball: Western Carolina at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida State Seminoles finally made their regular season debut at the Tucker Center on Wednesday night, but were given a rude awakening from the Western Carolina Catamounts. After the FSU starters came out hot and went up 9-4, the bench quickly fell apart for the ’Noles.

The Catamounts went on a 23-3 run and pushed the lead all the way up to 17 with 3:41 remaining in the half. While the ’Noles couldn’t get anything to fall, the Catamounts were draining threes. WCU was 7/12 from three at one point in the half and finished 7/14.

FSU’s offense started to find its footing late in the half by driving to the basket and getting to the line. The Seminoles were 14/18 from the free throw line at the half as they finished the half on a 12-2 run to cut the Catamounts’ lead to seven. Devin Vassell and Anthony Polite made key defensive stops near the end of the half to help cut into the deficit. The difference in the half was the 3-point shooting, as the Catamounts made seven more than the Seminoles.

But the Catamounts wouldn’t go away after the half, even outscoring the ’Noles by two before the first media timeout of the half. It wasn’t until an M.J. Walker three with 12:02 left in the half that the ‘Noles cut the lead to five. Every time FSU hit a crucial shot, Western Carolina would answer back with a big shot of its own.

Trent Forrest picked up his fourth foul of the game and the half at the under-8 media timeout as the ’Noles had to sit down their team leader while down just two points. At that time, the Seminoles had eight team fouls to the Catamounts’ two fouls for the half. With Forrest out, Walker kept the ’Noles in the game with a 3-pointer and an alley-pop assist to Devin Vassell.

The Seminoles just couldn’t catch a break in the 2nd half. After a missed 3-pointer by WCU the rebound came all the way out near half court where multiple players collided and the ball landed in a wide open Catamount, who turned around and drilled a three to put them up four. But once again, Walker stepped up with four straight points before a second alley-oop assist to Vassell to tie the game at 68-68 with 3:57 remaining.

Freshman Patrick Williams gave the Seminoles their first lead since the 12:40 mark in the first half with five straight points to put the ’Noles up 73-72 with 2:36 remaining. After a couple poor possessions by the Seminoles and a WCU second-chance field goal, Williams came in the clutch again, putting the Seminoles up 75-74 on a layup with 45 seconds remaining.

The Seminoles needed just one stop to likely ice the game and they got it from Malik Osborne. Osborne stood tall on a drive as the Seminoles picked up the rebound and Williams came in the clutch again. The freshman knocked down two crucial free throws to push the lead to three with 16.7 seconds remaining. The Catamounts would need a three to send the game to OT, but they couldn’t convert as Mason Faulkner’s step-back 3-pointer rimmed out. After going 7/14 in the first half, the Catamounts were just 2/9 in the second half from deep as FSU narrowly walked away with a 79-74 win.

GAME THREAD

BOX SCORE

Coach Hamilton talks about the coaching staff still learning about this team, the quality of Western Carolina, Malik Osborne’s defensive versatility, and more.

Trent Forrest discusses the hard fought win.

M.J. Walker speaks about how Western Carolina gave FSU so many problems in the first half, Forrest’s off-season shooting work, Patrick Williams stepping up, and more.

Devin Vassell gives a wide ranging interview, touching on topics like finding ways to impact a game even when his shot isn’t falling, how much it helps to have great fan support like tonight, how guys like Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele are still helping him, the play of freshman Patrick Williams, and more.