The Seminoles didn’t start this game — or ACC play — very well this season. But boy have they shown the ability to close. No. 14 Florida State finished off a run for the ages on Saturday afternoon, topping the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 65-57 in Winston-Salem, NC. FSU already had clinched the 4-seed in the ACC Tourney, but avoided hurting its NCAA Tournament seed, while making some history along the way.
The Seminoles got off to a sluggish start, spotting Wake an 8-0 lead, as the Deacs sunk a trio of circus shots to open play. WF sunk 8 free throws before FSU attempted any, and Florida State fell behind 14-2.
Leonard Hamilton went to his bench earlier than usual, a move that helped spark the ’Noles, who tightened up on defense and increased their effort. Offensively, Florida State went to Christ Koumadje on the inside, and he responded by scoring 8 of FSU’s first 19 points to trim the Wake lead to 20-19, the closest the Seminoles would get in the first half, which closed at an ugly 31-24.
How ineffective were the Florida State starters? Koumadje was the only one to score before the break. In the first stanza, FSU made 2-13 threes and just 4-9 free throws. Meanwhile, the Deacs went 16-16 from the charity stripe.
The Florida State starters woke up a touch after intermission, but their alarm clock was initially drowned out by shrill home-court whistles. The Seminoles cut the lead to a lone point a few times, but any momentum was stemmed by foul calls. At one point in the second half, FSU was whistled 5 times in 38 seconds. Still, a PJ Savoy three finally knotted things at 45 with 9:14 left, the first tie since 0-0. That tie lasted until after the U8 timeout, when a Trent Forrest leaner gave Florida State its first lead, 47-45.
That came as part of a defensively-keyed 18-0 ’Nole run to give FSU a 58-45 advantage with less than 5 minutes left, a lead that would get up to 15 as garbage time ensued with a couple of minutes remaining. The Seminole backcourt spearheaded the run, simply overwhelming a severely overmatched Wake team (11-19, 4-14) that has fought hard against Duke and now FSU down the stretch of a disappointing campaign.
All 11 ’Noles who played found the scoring column, and Forrest led the way with 11 points and five assists (one more than WF had as a team). Mfiondu Kabengele posted a team-high 10 rebounds. FSU wound up outshooting the Deacs 43%-26%.
The Seminoles (25-6, 13-5) finished by winning 12 of their final 13 ACC games, a regular-season school-record 13 ACC games on the season, and a regular-season program-best 25 overall games. Florida State now gets some nice time off, as it’ll begin ACC Tournament play in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon against an as-yet undetermined opponent.