Rubbing the rock doesn’t mean much when you can’t shoot it. The No. 16 Florida State basketball team shut down Clemson on Tuesday night, rolling into South Carolina and handing out a 77-64 beatdown of the Tigers to make program history by winning its eight-straight ACC game. Oh, and there’s this: we here at TN are ready to move FSU into “lock” status for the NCAA Tournament.
After a couple of slow minutes to begin the game, the Seminoles (21-5, 9-4) really controlled things from there on out, dominating the first half thanks to a 25-15 rebounding edge and a 17-0 advantage in bench scoring. Mfiondu Kabengele came off the bench hot, hitting 6-8 field goals to lead all scorers with 12 points at the break— he also had seven boards before the half. He and the rest of the bench were a huge reason that the Seminoles went on a 15-2 run to hit the locker room with a 38-23 lead.
A Clemson charge simply had to come after the intermission. This is a Tigers team (15-11, 5-8) desperate for a big win, and the orange and purple got to it after falling behind by 18 about three minutes into the second stanza— with some help from the black and white. Clemson quickly gained the bonus with more than 10 minutes left. The final foul disparity wound up just 21-18, but that’s largely because the Tigers had to foul late. Before that, FSU was called for 20 fouls to Clemson’s 12.
But to the Seminoles’ credit, they never let that affect them. The closest the Tigers got was to within seven. FSU hit clutch threes to quash Clemson runs, finishing 7-18 (39%). The Tigers, on the other hand, had been 9-0 this season when making at least 7 treys; they sunk 8 and still got blown out on their home court. And that bench-scoring imbalance? It finished with a 30-2 count in Florida State’s favor.
Kabengele was the player of the game, as he finished with a double-double: 19 points and 11 rebounds, along with 2 blocks and a steal. Just as importantly, Kabengele continues to play with emotion while leaning how to play smart: he picked up just a pair of fouls in 26 minutes. Also close to double-doubles were Trent Forrest (14 and 8), and Christ Koumadje (10 and 7), who almost had his third straight.
With postseason play rapidly approaching, FSU is showing that it can win in different ways. Clemson was determined to slow this game down, and largely succeeded, holding the Seminoles to just two fast-break points. But the half-court game is rounding into form for Florida State, and that’s trouble for opponents. This is a Tigers team that rebounds the ball quite well, and the ’Noles still beat them 43-32 on the glass and 19-9 in second-chance points. On the other end, FSU held Clemson to 38% shooting.
Next up for Florida State is a third consecutive road game, this one in Chapel Hill against No. 8 North Carolina on Saturday afternoon.