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No. 11 FSU basketball falls to UNC behind porous second-half effort

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#Noles turn ball over 12 times, miss six of 11 FT’s, and shoot 32.4% in the second half.

With March Madness just around the corner, the Florida State mens basketball team traveled up to Chapel Hill and fell to North Carolina by a score of 78-70. FSU went into half time with a double-digit lead, but it was quickly erased by the Seminoles’ worst stretch of basketball this season. FSU has now lost three games this season after being up double-digits. Despite the loss, the Seminoles still control their destiny in the ACC with two games remaining.

For the second game in a row, FSU fans missed the opening minutes of the game, however this time the score wasn’t quite as pleasing when the TV feed finally flipped over. A trio of turnovers and several UNC offensive rebounds prevented Florida State from getting much going in the early going.

Reminiscent of Trent Forrest, RaiQuan Gray hit a one-handed jumper to give FSU it’s first lead of the game at 7-5. Gray hit Anthony Polite on a great kick-out the next possession and Polite knocked down the corner three and the ‘Noles were on a 10-0 run.

Walker Kessler stopped the UNC drought with an offensive rebound tip-in, which is about all the Tar Heels did well in the first 8 minutes (58% offensive rebounding rate at the under-12).

A couple of dunks by Balsa Koprivica—one on a thunderous ally-oop from M.J. Walker—helped push FSU’s margin out to 16-10, but more sloppy play and fouls allowed North Carolina to chip into the lead.

A personal 5-0 run by Gray swung momentum back to the men in black. Then a steal by Walker led to an acrobatic layup from Barnes and suddenly the Dean Dome scoreboard read 23-14 in favor of Florida State. Two more free throws by the Tar Heels cut it to 23-16 and at that point in the game it seemed as if UNC could only do three things: turn the ball over; grab offensive rebounds; make free throws.

A steal and layup by Sardaar Calhoun gave FSU a double-digit lead at 27-16, but UNC brought it right back to nine with two more freebies. Rayquan Evans then made three the old fashioned way, which was followed up a couple possessions later by a Wyatt Wilkes three-ball corner pocket and the visitors were up 35-20 at under-4 media timeout.

Late in the first half we had a milestone moment with Walker scoring his 1,000th point in a Florida State uniform on a long two-point jumper. That bucket made the score 39-23 with just over two minutes left in the half. Unfortunately, continued offensive rebounding dominance (despite Armando Bacot sitting on the bench with three fouls) by the Tar Heels allowed the home team to claw back to within 10. Polite’s impressive finish off the glass with about two seconds left in the half made it 41-29 as the two teams headed to the locker room.

In a stark contrast from the first game played between these two teams, neither squad shot well in the opening 20 minutes. Florida State, the best three-point shooting team in the league, made just 3-10 from deep, including a combined 0-5 from Walker and Calhoun. Meanwhile, UNC was worse, going 2-14 (14.2%) from three and 7-28 (25%) from the field overall.

While a dozen point advantage on the road is nice, the Seminoles had an opportunity to be up by 18 or more at the break if they could have done anything resembling defensive rebounding. The Tar Heels grabbed 66% of their 21 missed shots, a stunning number that would usually translate into a healthy lead. So how was FSU up double-digits despite the poor rebounding? Turnovers. Florida State forced UNC into a turnover on an astounding 41.2% of their first half possessions, with many of them coming in the form of steals that led directly to points.

The second half started much like the game began; FSU turning the ball over and UNC getting four quick points off a layup and a dunk. With the lead cut to single digits for the first time since it was 27-18, Coach Hamilton called timeout after just 64 seconds. Unfortunately, it didn’t help. FSU turned it over on just simple throw aways and the Seminoles had no answers for Walker Kessler, and the Tar Heels began the half on a 10-0 run.

Finally, after more than three minutes had gone by, Polite got FSU in the scoring column with a corner three that momentarily took the lead back to five. But a Kerwin Walton three on the other end cut it right back to two at 44-42 at the under-16 timeout. FSU didn’t get better out of the break. UNC got a quick floater in the lane that tied the game and then an FSU turnover led to yet another Kessler slam dunk, giving UNC the lead for the first time since it was 5-3 less than 4 minutes into the game.

Back and forth action ensued over the next few minutes, but not a lot of points were scored on either side. Calhoun made his first three of the game to give FSU a 50-48 lead, but two Carolina free throws knotted things up at 50. Another FSU turnover followed by another UNC offensive rebound put the Tar Heels up 52-50 heading into the under-12. In the first 8 minutes and change of the second half, the Seminoles were turning the ball over on 50% of their possessions—and the vast majority were simply unforced errors. With UNC still grabbing 60% of their misses, that’s a bad combo.

UNC continued to take advantage of the Seminoles’ bad play on offense. After a turnover, RJ Davis drained his second three of the game to extend the UNC lead to five with 10:03 remaining. Back-to-back slams easy buckets from Kessler led to a Hamilton timeout, with his team down seven points. Kessler’s dunk with 8:38 remaining made it a 36-13 UNC run in the last 14 minutes of game time. A put-back on the offensive glass and a block from Koprivica sent the game to the U-8 media timeout, as UNC led 59-54. The first 12 minutes of the half was FSU’s worst stretch of basketball this season.

The ‘Noles started to cut into the lead, led by the play of Polite on both ends. A Polite steal led to a Walker layup in transition to make it a five-point game again after another Kessler basket. Polite brought in a defensive board on UNC’s next position, before converting on a fast-break jumper to make it a three-point game. Hamilton took his last timeout with FSU down 61-58 with 6:16 remaining. Two

After FSU cut the lead down to two, the freshman Walton made his third three of the game to push the lead back to five. With the Seminoles about to cut the lead to one, Caleb Love blocked a Barnes’ dunk attempt on the fast-break. The block led to a UNC dunk on the other end. The four-point swing gave UNC a 66-61 lead at the final media timeout.

A Gray free throw made it a four-point game out of the timeout. Barnes missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2:44 remaining. Two free throws would’ve made it a two-point game, one free throw would’ve made it a one-possession game. Instead, FSU still trailed by four. On the other end, Love went 2-2 from the line to extend the lead to six. The lead was pushed to eight with 1:24 remaining on another offensive put-back for UNC, this time by Brooks. FSU continued to fight till the end, but UNC couldn’t miss from the free throw line, leaving the Seminoles with little chance to make a come back.

FSU’s inability to capitalize on UNC’s mishaps in the first half came back to bite them as they posted a porous second half effort. The ‘Noles shot 32.4% from the field, were 5-11 from the FT line, and turned the ball over 12 times in the second half. Simply put, it was their worst stretch of basketball on the season. UNC outscored Florida State by 20 in the last 20 minutes of the game.