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Florida State survives in Chestnut Hill, beats Boston College by one

Whew. That was close.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After an abysmal performance in Louisville on Saturday, FSU (13-9, 7-4) came out and led Boston College (13-9, 4-7) for nearly 38 minutes. And yet, the game wasn’t decided until the final seconds. After an early 15 point lead, BC whittled away until it was just a one-point game with 10 seconds remaining. But the Seminoles’ defense came up with a big stop when it mattered most and Florida State escaped with a 63-62 road victory. Jamir Watkins led FSU with 10 points and 6 rebounds, and he made several massive plays late to help secure the win.

First Half:

FSU won the tip and immediately turned the ball over on a De’Ante Green moving screen. Coming off three straight halves where the ‘Noles were basically whistled for a foul a minute, I imagine there were plenty of Florida State fans saying “here we go again.” But the next five minutes went almost exclusively FSU’s way. The Seminoles got several buckets right at the basket from multiple players, as well as a walk-in three in transition from Darin Green, Jr.

At the other end, Florida State was disruptive, generating several deflections and steals. And when Boston College did get an open look it was brick city. The only basket made by the Eagles in the opening five and a half minutes was an uncontested layup after Baba Miller saved a ball from going out of bounds under BC’s hoop. By the time Josh Nickelberry swished a three in transition off a nice look from Taylor Bol Bowen, Florida State already led 16-2.

The lead grew as much as 19-4, but basketball is a game of runs and Boston College made a quick one. It started with the home team just getting a few shots to fall from the perimeter. The looks weren’t much better, they just didn’t clank iron. Florida State then fed into the momentum shift as some poor shot selection and bad positioning on the defensive glass gave the Eagles some easy baskets. The result was a 14-3 run for BC and FSU’s lead trimmed to just 21-16 around the 10:30 mark.

Jaylan Gainey came in off the bench and quickly made his presence felt. The big man stopped the bleeding with a nice little back-to-the-basket move, then added four more points with his hustle running the court and offensive rebounding. Miller and Warley, neither of whom were in the game during BC’s run, also made a difference at both ends during this stretch. Miller skied for a great block on a lay-up attempt that led to a transition opportunity for FSU, while Warley grabbed multiple offensive rebounds on a possession that eventually led to a Gainey hoop. When the two teams reached the under-8 media timeout, the ‘Noles had pushed their lead back up to 29-18.

However, just like earlier in the half, FSU couldn’t quite take full control of the game. Credit Boston College for not panicking and continuing to move the ball, as the Eagles made several deep in the shot clock threes despite heavy harassment from FSU defenders on the possession. At the under-4 media timeout, BC had cut the FSU margin all the way down to 35-31.

Both teams were sloppy out of the under-4, with missed shots and non-live turnovers featured heavily. Nickelberry broke the scoring drought with a dunk off a nice three-quarter length pass from Bol Bowen following a defensive rebound. But that was the only basket in the final few minutes and FSU took a 37-31 lead into the locker room.

What began as a hot shooting game for FSU regressed to essentially average by halftime. The ‘Noles made 3 threes in the first 6.5 minutes, and then went 0-7 the rest of the half. The biggest contributor to Florida State’s success was creating easy looks off BC turnovers a few nifty passes in the half-court set.

Boston College sank 5 threes, but took 17 shots to get there. They did take advantage of the offensive glass, getting 8 second change points. The Eagles also scored 5 points directly off of plays where a Seminole tried to save a ball from going out of bounds.

Second Half:

Florida State opened the second stanza with a quick 5-0 run, punctuated with a Miller corner three, but BC punched backed with a 6-0 run of their own, making the score 42-37 FSU after the opening few minutes. The ‘Noles had a couple of looks to push the lead further, but Miller and Jamir Watkins missed some moderately contested bunnies around the basket. The Eagles were able to take advantage and temporarily cut the lead to three points—the smallest FSU lead since it was 5-2—but Warley went on a personal 4-0 run to give FSU its working margin once again.

The Seminoles led 48-41 when Cam Corhen appeared set for an easy dunk off a nice feed from Bol Bowen. However, the refs swallowed their whistle despite heavy contact on Corhen’s arm and a shove in the back, leading to a run-out layup the other way. A wild shot by Primo Spears on the next possession resulted in a transition three for BC and in the blink of an eye the ‘Noles’ lead was down to just two at the under-12 media timeout.

Corhen pushed it back out to four points with a foul-line jumper and a Bol Bowen bucket made it a six point game a minute later. But some poor perimeter defense allowed the Eagles to hit back-to-back threes and the score was tied at 52 apiece, the first tie since 2-2. Florida State had good looks during the stretch, but most of the starters were on the bench and the rotation players couldn’t hit a jumper.

Green, Jr. and Watkins came back in out of the under-8 timeout and immediately made winning plays, including a three-ball from Green, Jr. and a couple of big-time contested shots in the paint by Watkins—the latter of which gave FSU a 61-56 lead. But Boston College would not go away. Spears committed a turnover after over-dribbling that led to an easy basket at the other end. Then Spears missed a quick shot attempt that led to a run-out a free throws for BC, trimming FSU’s lead to just 61-60 with 2:07 left, prompting a timeout by Leonard Hamilton.

After a missed shot from Green, Jr. with less than three seconds on the shot clock, Corhen came up with a monster offensive rebound. This led to Warley attacking the rim and getting a shot to go through contact, giving FSU a 63-60 lead with just 1:24 left. But Boston College trimmed it to 63-62 with 16 seconds left. The Eagles then fouled Green, Jr. in a one-and-one situation, but the senior sharp shooter missed the front end and BC grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 10 seconds left. Fortunately, the FSU defense bothered them enough on two different out-of-bounds plays and the Eagles never got a shot off.

Florida State had 7 guys score between 6 and 10 points, as well as 6 guys grabbing between 3 and 6 rebounds.

Box Score and Takeaways:

  • Jalen Warley makes FSU better. His disruptiveness and positional size on defense is key to FSU getting stops without fouling, either from his deflections/steals or his defensive rebounds. And his patience and hoops IQ on offense is enough to off-set his weakness on his jumper. It’s no surprise that FSU’s double digit leads in the first half came with Warley on the court.
  • I have no idea why Taylor Bol Bowen only played 7 minutes in the loss against Louisville, but the freshman absolutely needs more than that. Tonight he made contributions all over the court, scoring at all three levels, rebounding at both ends, forcing turnovers (including a huge steal at half-court when the game was tied at 52), making chase down blocks, and dropping off dimes for teammates. Whew. I’m tired just typing it. He flashed his NBA potential tonight, I just hope he sticks around for another season to truly live into his potential.
  • For much of the season Coach Hamilton has said he expected this team to be a better perimeter shooting team than it’s shown, but after 22 games it seems pretty clear we are not a great shooting team...or even a good one. Shooting just 32.5% from deep coming into the game, the ‘Noles were only 5-19 from three in this one. This clear weakness allows opponents to sag off shooters and take away the slashing and penetration to the basket that should be a strength for FSU. All of this is a big part of why FSU’s offense is not even top 120 in the nation.

Looking Ahead:

FSU travels back to Tallahassee for a huge home game against a surging Virginia Cavaliers squad. The Wahoos, winners of 7 straight, just held Miami to 38 points in a complete beat down. If there was ever a game for Florida State to find its shooting from deep, this one would be nice.