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Florida State’s win streak ends at home in defeat to Clemson

The largest crowd of the season was treated to a stinker.

Peyton Baker

Florida State (11-7, 5-2) entered the game undefeated in 2024 and it looked like the streak might continue early on, as FSU built an 8 point first half lead. But the final 25 minutes of the game belonged exclusively to Clemson (13-5, 3-4) and the desperate Tigers were able to hand FSU their first loss in the last 6 games. For the Seminoles, it will certainly feel like a missed opportunity after they beat their rivals in Coral Gables earlier in the week.

First Half:

FSU began the game playing the same aggressive style that has defined their January turnaround. Darin Green, Jr., who’s had a penchant for hot starts lately, opened the scoring up for the Seminoles with a smooth jumper from the mid-range and then buried a well-contested three from the wing. Jalen Warley also made a huge impact early at both ends. The junior finished several tough baskets at the rim through contact, evoking memories of guys like Trent Forrest and Michael Snaer that made FSU “Big Guard U.” On defense, he recorded a block and a steal in the opening 6 minutes, the latter of which he took all the way for a bucket to put FSU up 14-8. It was his 100th steal of his Florida State career.

Coach Hamilton brought in a new five over two substitution waves in the 7th and 8th minutes of action. Their task? Maintain the energy and aggressiveness that the first unit established. Thanks to Primo Spears, Chandler Jackson, and Taylor Bol Bowen it was mission accomplished. Jackson and Spears both hit multiple jumpers off the bounce, simply elevating above their defenders to finish strong one-on-one moves. Bowen, meanwhile, flashed his NBA-length on the defensive end, swatting one shot and preventing another by getting into the passing lane.

Clemson was able to get a three to fall during this stretch when it rimmed out, popped straight up about 5 feet over the basket, and dropped back through. However, the baskets by Spears and Jackson were enough to allow FSU to maintain a 23-18 lead into the under-8 media timeout.

The Tigers switched to a zone coming out of the break and Florida State struggled to adjust. A few open shots were generated, but none fell—the ‘Noles were just 1-7 from deep in the opening 20 minutes. The offense started getting a little stagnant at that point, and while FSU was doing a good job of turning Clemson over, many of them were of the deadball variety which prevented the Seminoles from getting out in transition. At the 2:18 mark, Florida State hadn’t made a field goal in over four minutes and the score was knotted up at 28, prompting timeout from Coach Ham.

FSU responded with an immediate bucket inside from Baba Miller to stop the bleeding, but the final two minutes of the half saw missed opportunities by both teams. The biggest being a wide open dunk attempt by Jaylan Gainey (after a terrific dime by Miller) that rimmed out when the big man tried to get a little too emphatic with it. When the horn sounded, the Tigers and Seminoles headed to the locker room tied at 30.

For FSU it was a mixed bag. They began the game shooting well, but finished the half just 12-29 from the field (41%), in large part because they were forced to operate out of the half-court for almost all of the final 10 minutes. Even worse, the ‘Noles rebounded just 17% of their misses, well below their season average.

Defensively, FSU forced turnovers on over 23% of Clemson’s possessions and held the Tigers to just 42% shooting from the field. But Clemson outscored FSU by 9 from the three point line to be able to stay in it.

Second Half:

Unfortunately, it was a slow start for the Seminoles out of the half. Miller aired balled a three that led to a PJ Hall lay-in, and the Warley was loose with the handle on the next possession to get ripped. Clearly unhappy, Hamilton called timeout just 1:06 into the half with FSU down 32-30. The Tigers extended the lead to five with a made three from the corner when Miller got caught helping too deep in the paint, and then out to seven on a Hall layup. The Clemson run was finally stopped on a strong take by Jamir Watkins, but a goaltending called on Miller at the other end pushed it right back out to seven at 39-32.

After a Miller goaltend, it was Watkins again going strong to the hoop, this time finishing through contact over Hall, giving the Tigers’ superstar his 3rd foul. Green, Jr. swished a three, FSU’s first since the opening minutes of the game, and the Clemson margin was down to just two at 39-37.

The ‘Noles cut it to 41-40, but had chances to take the lead. Bol Bowen only made 1 of 3 FTs after being fouled on the perimeter, and Watkins missed his and-1 too. And when the Tigers went back into the zone, FSU settled for a series of terrible shot attempts from three, making none. At this point in the game, going back to the 4:34 mark of the first half, the Seminoles had scored just 12 points in 13 minutes.

The whistles in the second half were coming much faster than the first half at both ends. And while this did put a few Clemson players in foul trouble, Florida State missing quite a few attempts from the charity stripe allowed the Tigers to extend their lead. By the time Dillon Hunter hit Clemson’s 6th three of the game, the margin had grown to 10 points with just 8 minutes remaining.

The margin remained at 10 over the next four minutes. The intensity on defense that made life hell for teams like Miami, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest dried up as shots continued to clank. Clemson also did a tremendous job of eliminating FSU from the offensive glass, with the Seminoles getting blanked in that department in the second half.

The final few minutes were a slow death for FSU, as Clemson made enough free throws to keep FSU at an arm’s length away.

Box Score, Takeaways, and Post Game

  • FSU thrived during the five game streak by generating transition offense from long rebounds and turnovers on defense, and by generating extra possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds. The Seminoles did neither in this game and the result was the worst offensive performance since the SMU game in mid-December.
  • Once Clemson built their lead, in a game that was being whistled very tightly, FSU simply could not get stops without fouling. Which makes it impossible to trim into the lead.
  • The hallmark of FSU under Leonard Hamilton has been depth. The ‘Noles have rarely had an elite starting five over the last 20 years, but their 1-12 has often been better than most other teams’ 1-12. Today was an example of what happens when the depth is a no show. Taylor Bol Bowen, Cam Corhen, and Primo Spears were all major contributors to FSU’s resurgence, but all three struggled to ever get in rhythm today. Corhen had 1 point and 1 rebound in 14 minutes, Bowen only record one stat—a steal—in the second half, and Spears just seemed to be trying to do too much on his own, going 3-10 with 0 assists and 2 turnovers. This inability to pick up the slack for struggling starters like Miller who battled foul trouble and turnovers all game ensured FSU had little chance in the end.

Looking Ahead:

Florida State travels to the snow covered lands of upstate New York to take on the Syracuse Orange. The Orange, coming off a buzzer-beating win against Miami, are one of those ACC teams stuck in the log-jam in the middle of the ACC trying to break into the top tier of the standings. Meanwhile, FSU can’t afford to drop a second straight game if they have any hopes of the NCAA Tournament. The game tips at 7pm on Tuesday, January 23rd.