When they finally met up on the court, things went as expected; freshman Scottie Barnes once again made a few breathtaking plays, and Pitt forward Justin Champagnie had another stellar outing.
Most importantly, FSU downed the Panthers 79-72, maintaining their top position in the ACC standings. In a back-and-forth battle, the Seminoles led by single-digits for most of the game, and Pitt failed to make up their deficit from early in the first half.
No. 16 Florida State (13-3, 9-2 ACC) once again showcased their stellar depth, as nine players scored and eight Seminoles had at least 5 points. FSU pounded Pitt inside with 44 points in the paint and 17 second-chance points.
Champagnie, the ACC’s leader in points and rebounds, had 21 and 10 for the Panthers (9-9, 5-8 ACC). For the Noles, RaiQuan Gray had 16 points and 8 boards and Barnes finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks.
An early 4-for-16 combined start from the field gave way to an early Pitt advantage. Sardaar Calhoun got in on the action and drilled a three to break a 6-6 tie. Then, Anthony Polite continued his strong return with two quick assists, including an alley-oop jam to big-man Balsa Koprivica.
Suddenly FSU was back up 15-10, and they weren’t done. Barnes and Calhoun each wowed with impressive full-court plays. Calhoun picked off the Pittsburgh offense and took it home with a slam, and Barnes swatted away a shot an converted a layup and the free throw just one possession later.
Paced again by Champagnie, Pitt came back to trail by just 2 points. The favorite for ACC Player of the Year quickly scored 5 points in just over a minute of game-time. Just as FSU regained their prior lead with a Koprivica dunk, Champagnie refused to let the Noles pull away and scored 6 more points.
Junior sharpshooter Wyatt Wilkes came up gingerly after he nailed a three-pointer. After another strong finish inside from Tanor Ngom, Pittsburgh freshman Femi Odukale converted on a jumper with 2 seconds left in the half. FSU headed into the locker room up 6 at halftime, 39-33.
Wilkes overcame the minor twist in his knee late in the first half, returning to action to start the second half. In the second frame, Pittsburgh drew closer and got the deficit to just 3 points, but Malik Osborne answered with an and-one put back to get on the board just as quickly in second half as he had in the first.
Always active on the offensive glass, Gray put back a Polite miss for his 5th and 6th points of the second half. Despite constant scoring all afternoon inside from the Panther star Champagnie, FSU maintained their lead.
Barnes started to assert himself underneath the rim, taking it aggressively to the basket on back-to-back possessions to push FSU to a 57-49 lead with 11 minutes to play.
As was the case the whole game, Pitt kept cutting into the lead only to give it back up on the other end. Gray muscled in for another tough bucket after grabbing his own miss. FSU as a team finished with 12 offensive rebounds.
Down 10 with 5 minutes remaining, Barnes met Champagnie at the rim for another block and a key stop. Polite hit a dagger three from the corner, and Barnes dished one inside to Koprivica to go up 72-62.
Pitt made a run at the end, cutting it to 74-70, but FSU converted their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Next up on the schedule, Florida State heads south to take on rival Miami at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night. The Hurricanes (7-13, 3-12 ACC) are on a 3-game losing streak and were blown out 87-60 to Georgia Tech on Saturday.