No. 19 FSU (10-2) defeated USF (6-6) 66-60 in the Orange Bowl Classic for the Seminoles’ third straight win.
The Florida State Seminoles came out of the locker room as cold as possible. The ‘Noles started the day 1-9, forcing Leonard Hamilton into a TO after just three minutes, as USF had built an 11-2 lead. Seven second-chance points gave the Bulls an 11-point lead at the first media timeout of the game.
The ‘Noles were down 13 within the first seven minutes of the game, but FSU’s reserves got them back into the game. Six straight paint-points on three straight possessions cut the USF lead down to seven as USF took a timeout at the second media timeout of the game.
FSU didn’t get a three to drop until 13 minutes into the game as M.J. Walker dropped in a triple on FSU’s 11th attempt. Florida State’s first half was miserable shooting the ball, but timely defense cut the USF lead to just three at the half. FSU finished the first half on a 12-4 run.
The ‘Noles shot 14.3% from deep and 32.1% from the floor, but had eight points off turnovers while USF had zero. RaiQuan Gray led the way in the first half with nine points and six boards.
Florida State came out of the half shooting much better from the floor, but also a bit more turnover prone. Trent Forrest tied the game for the first time since the opening tip with a three with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game. USF continued to hang with the Seminoles through the half, not letting the ‘Noles take the lead with multiple timely steals. Through the first 10 minutes of the half, FSU was 4/7 from deep, but six turnovers kept them behind. USF led 46-45 with 9:44 remaining.
Forrest gave FSU their very first lead of the game with 8:04 remaining with a layup. FSU took a one-point lead into the U-8 media timeout, but it wouldn’t last long. A made free throw, offensive rebound on a missed free throw, a three-pointer, two technical free throws, and another three-pointer from the Bulls completely flipped the switch on the game. The 11-0 USF run started on a missed out-of-bounds call which gave USF the ball and led to a 6-point possession. USF led by 10 with 6:37 to go.
FSU fought back with a run of their own as a Devin Vassell three cut the lead to three with 4:07 remaining. An 11-1 run from FSU tied the game up at 58 with 2:19 remaining after two Walker free throws. FSU took the lead on a tough mid-range jumper from Vassell with two minutes left. Forrest extended the lead to four on a steal and slam, giving FSU their biggest lead of the game.
FSU finished the game on a 19-3 run over the last 6:30 of the game as they went on to win by 6. FSU has now taken home a W in the Orange Bowl Classic two straight years.
Obviously this wasn’t FSU’s best game, but the Seminoles showed once again they know how to win close games. FSU got down 10 with just over six minutes left, but kept their composure and battled back. The game as a whole was pretty ugly, but the last six minutes was an impressive stretch by the ‘Noles. The Seminoles played suffocating defense and came up with crucial plays on both ends of the court. USF hit one FG the last 6:30 of the game. FSU’s defense forced 24 turnovers and scored 21 points off turnovers as the defense fueled the comeback.
Gray, Forrest, Walker, and Anthony Polite all scored 11 points on the afternoon. Polite provided a much needed spark off the bench, adding five rebounds and four assists, and he didn’t turn the ball over (a positive recent trend for the backup guard), while providing his patented lock-down defense. For his efforts, he was named MVP of the game:
The MVP of the Orange Bowl Classic -— FSU Hoops (@FSUHoops) December 21, 2019
Anthony Polite pic.twitter.com/F8zkdcwn3t
The box score doesn’t look great for Walker, but he forced multiple USF turnovers down the stretch and made other winning plays. FSU shot 40% from the floor for the game.
USF led for over 33 minutes of the game, but a win is a win. FSU is back in the Tuck against North Alabama next Saturday:
Happy Holiday! Noles WIN!— FSU Hoops (@FSUHoops) December 21, 2019
We finish the game on a 19-3 run to take down USF pic.twitter.com/XeEBUTCndQ