No. 25 Florida State played slightly less ugly basketball than the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon, and while it wasn’t pretty to watch, the Seminoles’ 59-49 win in Tallahassee is FSU’s third in a row. The ’Noles (16-5) have bounced back from a 1-4 start in ACC play to even their conference record at 4-4, while handing the Jackets (11-11, 3-6) their third straight loss. But really I’m just stalling so I don’t have to write about this game. Okay, if I must.
It was a rocky start for the Seminoles, who lost Phil Cofer early— thankfully not to injury. Cofer picked up two fouls in less than three minutes and spent the rest of the first half on the bench. GT wisely countered with a 1-3-1 zone, which concedes the short corner where Cofer typically excels. Still, FSU moved the ball pretty well against the Jackets’ defense, getting decent looks and collecting 8 assists on its first 11 field goals.
But despite a lengthy rest, the Seminoles’ misses were particularly nasty. They looked like a team without their legs, which is strange, since they’ve been off since Sunday. Still, a couple of early airballs came up short, and a few other shots barely got to the front of the rim. Of Florida State’s first eight field goals, four were dunks. At the break, the ’Noles had hit just 7-24 non-dunks— and they were winning, 33-27. Both teams shot 39% in the first half. And that was the high-water mark.
Tech is not a very talented team, and they showed it. The Jackets’ leader, point guard Jose Alvarado, went 0-10 and fouled out with 0 points. Georgia Tech wins by mucking things up and slogging it out, and that’s just what happened in the second half, as all rhythm was sucked out of the game, thanks in part to a number of official reviews that slowed the contest to a crawl.
The Seminoles’ turnovers nearly doubled after halftime, as they had just five at the break and nine after. How bad was the second half? The teams shot 50% after intermission— if you add GT’s 22% shooting to FSU’s 28% clip. The Seminoles’ M.J. Walker, who found his stroke by hitting 6-7 threes against Miami on Sunday, evidently left it in Miami. He could have feasted on the Jackets’ zone but instead finished 0-7 from the floor.
As a team, Florida State hit just 4-16 from downtown. But Tech matched the Seminoles’ ineptitude from deep, making a putrid 3-21. The only place the Jackets could shoot was from the line, where they sunk 12-14 free throws (86%). But FSU more than neutralized that, getting to the stripe far more often and making 23-30 (77%).
This was the game that refused to end, as GT cut a 41-29 Florida State advantage to 55-49 with a few minutes left before the ’Noles hit their freebies and the clock mercifully bled to zero. How bad was the finish? The Seminoles didn’t make a field goal in the last 5:45, and Tech didn't score a point in the final 4:23. Of the teams’ last 26 combined FG attempts to finish the game, two went through the rim.
Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann led the way for Florida State with 12 points each, while Christ Koumadje had eight rebounds and Trent Forrest and David Nichols dished out three assists apiece.
These games happen. Just ask NC State, which just scored 24 points in a loss to Virginia Tech. At home. And the Wolfpack are (were) ranked ahead of the Seminoles, at No. 23. The Pack’s embarrassment is good timing for FSU, as any discussion of ugly basketball will begin and end in Raleigh.
The ACC’s current slogan is “Bring your ‘A’ game,” but that’s just not going to happen every time you lace them up. The important thing is that the Seminoles survived. And that it’s over.