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FSU basketball embarrasses No. 20 Clemson Tigers for 4th straight win

This one got ugly in a hurry.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Three and half weeks ago the Clemson Tigers grabbed headlines by upsetting a ranked Florida State team at home. On Saturday, the Seminoles returned the favor and then some, bludgeoning the reeling Tigers in a 80-61 drubbing that was no where near as close as the final score indicates. The win, FSU’s 21st consecutive against ACC opponents in Tuck, brings the ‘Noles to 9-2 on the season and 5-1 in conference play.

The Seminoles turned it over on their first possession and quickly fell behind 2-0. However, the defense cranked it up several notches soon after and Clemson was simply unable to keep up.

Speaking of failing to execute, this game became a nationally televised example of why the college reffing situation must be addressed. Whether it’s more training, full-time jobs, or firing people, they simply have to do a better job. There’s no other way around it. Call fouls that impact the play. The NBA is fantastic about this, so we know it can be done. When a guy gets his arm hacked while shooting or his legs cut from underneath him in the air, call the foul. When there’s a 50/50 long rebound and two guys bump each other going for it, let it play on.

The latter of these examples resulted in a quick whistle on Saturday, resulting in Clemson getting punished by having a transition opportunity blown dead and the home squad being punished with RaiQuan Gray picking up his second foul three minutes into the game. Both teams suffered because the stripes weren’t good at their job.

With Gray on the bench and Anthony Polite missing his second straight game with a shoulder injury, one might have worried that the Seminoles could struggle. Quite the contrary played out. An M.J. Walker and Scottie Barnes three-point sandwich made it 15-7 after 6 minutes of play.

Malik Osborne pushed the lead to double-digits with a nice turnaround jumper. He then brought the crowd roaring to its feet with an above the rim return to sender on an attempted dunk by Hunter Tyson. A Sardaar Calhoun corner three made it 22-7, capping an 18-3 run by the Seminoles.

The next few minutes featured choppy play at both ends, largely created by inconsistent shooting and referees who seemed to vacillate between believing basketball is a zero-contact sport and hockey. By the 5:30 mark FSU’s lead remained 15 points, 31-16.

A pair of Clemson free throws narrowed their deficit to 13, but Rayquan Evans came flying in for a an offensive rebound and lay-up all in one motion to push it back to 15. Two more Tiger freebies again cut it to 13, but another offensive rebound put-back, this time by Balsa Koprivica, made it 35-20 at the under-4 timeout.

FSU forced an airball out of the timeout then promptly extended their margin to 18 on Calhoun’s second three-ball corner pocket of the game. More free throws for Clemson brought the Tigers to within 16, but another three—this one with harm—by Calhoun stretched the lead out to an even 20 points.

It appeared as if that would be the halftime margin, but the ref crew decided to whistle FSU for their 12th foul on a scramble for a 50/50 rebound as the buzzer sounded. The Tigers made their 13th and 14th shots from the charity stripe, Barnes’ three-quarter court heave just rimmed out, and the ‘Noles took a 42-24 advantage into the locker room.

Aside from free throws, where the Tigers outscored the Seminoles 16-3 in the first stanza, Florida State dominated the opening 20 minutes in virtually every aspect. In fact, Calhoun scored as many first half points (10) as all Clemson players combined scored from the field. Despite turning it over on 18.7% of their first half possessions—almost all of which were dead ball turnovers—FSU scored 1.27 points per possession, shot 7-17 from deep (including the long throw by Barnes), grabbed 44% of their misses, and held Clemson to 16.7% shooting from the field. Keep in mind that all of that came as FSU played without Gray and Anthony Polite (injured) for nearly the entire half.

The second half began as the first ended—three fouls called in the first 55 seconds. Gray clearly didn’t care for being forced to sit 17 minutes and the big fella came out fired up. His baseline tomahawk jam made it 48-24 and forced Brad Brownell to take an early timeout.

The timeout did not have its intended effect. Brownell’s team continued to shoot worse than a city slicker at a dude ranch, Florida State continued to rip the nets off the rim from deep, and the referees continued to blow their whistles. Calhoun, Gray, Koprivica, Walker, Tanor Ngom, and Nate Jack all contributed to a 15-2 run. By the under-12 timeout the scoreboard showed 66-31, good guys.

From there the game was a scrimmage. Points were scored, fouls were called, and turnovers were plenty—both forced and unforced. The lead grew as high as 38 before Hamilton mercifully called off the dogs. The biggest negative for FSU fans was Walker looking quite woozy as he was helped off the court following an inadvertent blow to the head while boxing out. His status will certainly be worth monitoring, especially if Polite remains in street clothes.

Calhoun and Koprivica led a balanced scoring attack, with both guys contributing 13 points. Koprivica added 10 rebounds (3 offensive) and 2 blocks for his first double-double as a Seminole. Calhoun’s came in just 17 minutes as the JUCO transfer showed off his deadly stroke from deep, going 4-5 from three. Gray and Walker also made it into double figures for Florida State, with the former scoring 11 points on 4-5 shooting in just 11 minutes of action.

For the game, FSU shot 12-28 from deep and grabbed nearly 40% of their misses. Defensively, Clemson was unable to do anything other than make free throws (22-26) and 21 of their 61 points came in the final 5:54 after the Seminoles emptied their bench.

FSU now turns their attention to an in-state rival, as the Miami Hurricanes visit Tallahassee on Wednesday.