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FSU basketball squeaks past Tulane for 59-54 win

Take them any way you can get them.

NCAA Basketball: Tulane at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Tallahassee, FL- Florida State basketball squeaked past the Tulane Green Wave for a 59-54 win. For the second straight game, the Seminoles were lackluster on the offensive end. But this time, the ‘Noles were the team to make winning plays late. Caleb Mills was FSU’s leading scorer with 13 points. Cam’Ron Fletcher made crucial play after crucial play coming off the bench. The Kentucky-transfer added 11 points on 4-5 shooting and made life tough on the Green Wave’s offense with his length. The ‘Noles shot just 40% from the field, but with a team breaking in five new players to their rotation, you’ll take every win, any way you can get them in November.

The Seminoles started the game with three straight empty possessions. Leading-scorer Malik Osborne finally got the ‘Noles on the board with a triple. FSU’s length on the defensive end kept Tulane quiet early. RayQuan Evans blocked a pair of shots within the first three minutes.

Tanor Ngom, who missed the first two games with a concussion, checked in for the first time after Osborne was undercut going for an offensive board. The hard fall came off a flagrant foul by the Green Wave. Osborne was able to knock down both of his free throws despite being a bit shaken up. Despite FSU making just two of its first nine shots, Osborne’s free throws put the Seminoles up 7-5 at the first media timeout.

But Tulane opened up a three-point lead as FSU’s offense continued to struggle. The Seminoles went on a drought of over five and a half minutes without a field goal. John Butler ended the drought with a dunk off a Jalen Warley assist. Jaylen Forbes’ second corner three gave the Green Wave a 14-10 lead at the second media timeout. Through eight minutes of basketball, FSU was scoring just 0.667 points per possession.

After Anthony Polite missed a wide open corner three, Forbes hurt the Seminoles again with an and-one. Nine minutes in, Forbes had just one fewer point than the entire Florida State team, and Tulane led by seven. Leonard Hamilton was forced to call his first timeout with 10:47 remaining in the half after FSU’s fifth turnover, and the visitors sapping all the energy from the building

Hamilton’s timeout lit a quick fire under the ‘Noles. Mills swiped a pass to force the Green Wave’s first turnover of the day. Cam’Ron Fletcher followed the steal with a corner triple. Evans’ blocked his third shot (a career-high), leading to a Butler jumper in transition.

On the following possession, Butler kicked out to Mills for another triple, capping a quick 8-0 run and putting the lead back in FSU’s hands. Tylan Pope responded with a three of his own to make it a 20-18 Tulane lead at the under-8 TO.

The Seminoles were sloppy and lazy with the ball in their hands in the half. Over a span of 3:17 midway through the half, FSU turned the ball over five times. With five minutes remaining in the half, Florida State’s turnover percentage was higher than its scoring percentage. Mills kept the Seminoles alive with 10 early points. The game was knotted at 25 at the final media TO of the half.

For the second straight game, Polite struggled to find the bottom of the net early. He didn’t find the scoreboard until making two free throws out of the TO. Fletcher swished home his second triple to give the ‘Noles a three-point lead. Wyatt Wilkes made his first triple to up the lead to six, FSU’s biggest lead of the half.

Despite the ice cold start, the Seminoles entered the half with a 37-32 lead. The ‘Noles made nine of their final 12 FG attempts. Mills led the way with 10 points and three steals. Forbes was the driving force for the Green Wave, as he led all scorers with 14 on 5-8 shooting.

Evans, who didn’t score in the first half, made the Seminoles’ first basket of the second half, but FSU got off to another sluggish start. However, Tulane was sloppy, as well, on the offensive end. The two teams combined for just two points (on Evans’ mid-range jumper )in the first five minutes.

Ngom gave FSU’s offense some life off the bench. His first point of the season came on a free throw after driving to the basket. On FSU’s next possession, the center showed off some improved footwork in the paint with a hook shot. Tulane’s first points came six minutes into the half. Jalen Cook kept the Green Wave’s deficit to single digits with five straight points. In nine minutes of second half basketball, the two teams combined for 12 points. FSU maintained a 44-37 lead with 11:12 remaining.

Tulane cut the lead to three with five straight free throws. Through 11 minutes of the half, FSU was scoring just 0.57 points per possession. Florida State’s offense had zero rhythm. Neither of Florida State’s senior leaders, Osborne and Polite, had even attempted a shot midway through the half. A Butler floater gave FSU a 47-42 lead at the U8 media timeout.

Polite made a bucket in transition and was fouled, but couldn’t convert the and-one (despite getting two shots at it due to a lane infraction). On the other end, three straight offensive boards (one off a missed free throw) led to a second-chance bucket for the Wave. Simply put, FSU couldn’t execute anything. Wide open shots were missed. Passes were thrown to fans in the stands. Rebounds that hit FSU hands ended up in Tulane’s hands. Those miscues led to minimal three-point lead against a 16.5-point underdog with six minutes remaining.

Fletcher gave the Seminoles some breathing room and brought the life back to the Tucker Center. The Kentucky-transfer slammed home a dunk through contact, before converting a free throw for an and-one.

Osborne kept the momentum on Florida State’s side with a dunk of his own, this one a two-handed put-back jam. Polite swiped the ball away from a Tulane guard to start a quick fast break. Evans found Fletcher for another jam as he skied high for an alley-oop slam. Fletcher’s second slam put FSU up 10. Cook stopped the FSU surge with his third triple, but FSU led 56-49 at the final media timeout.

Mills missed the front end of a one-and-one with the ‘Noles up six and just over two minutes remaining. Cook responded with a triple to cut the lead to three. Polite made a crucial play on the following possession. The senior leader grabbed an airball and finished strong at the rim for a basket. With 37 seconds remaining, the ‘Noles missed a front-end of a one-and-one again, but Fletcher was able to grab the offensive board to eat more time off the clock. FSU led by five with 15 seconds remaining.

Evans’ fourth block, a thunderous rejection at the rim, with ten seconds remaining put the exclamation point on the close victory. Osborne grabbed an airball out of the air to put the finishing touches on the win.

FSU notables:

Mills: 13 points (5-15, 2-6 3Pt), 4 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl

Fletcher: 11 points (4-5, 2-3 3Pt), 2 reb

Osborne: 9 points (3-5, 1-1 3Pt), 10 reb

Polite: 6 points (2-7, 0-5 3 Pt), 10 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl



Up next: Florida State will travel to Jacksonville on Sunday to face Loyola Marymount in the first round of the Jacksonville Classic. Game one is scheduled for 5:30 PM and will be aired on CBS sports network. FSU will then play either SMU or Missouri on the following day.