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FSU basketball squeaks past North Carolina to advance to ACC Tournament Final

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‘Noles hold UNC to two points over last 3:14 to move on.

rwillett@newsobserver.com

No. 15 Florida State basketball narrowly beat North Carolina by a score of 69-66 in the ACC Tournament semifinals tonight. The ‘Noles held an 11-point lead, but the Tar Heels came out of the locker room on fire. FSU was able to weather the storm and limit the damage to keep themselves right in it and the defense stepped up late. The Seminoles held UNC to two points over the last 3:14 of the game and made enough plays on the offensive end to advance to the ACC Tournament title game.


M.J. Walker opened up the scoring on a transition layup off a good feed from Balsa Koprivica. Other than the transition bucket, the Seminoles were rusty early. FSU turned the ball over twice in the first three minutes, including a miscommunication between Tanor Ngom and RaiQuan Gray. The ‘Noles got open looks early, but couldn’t convert. Through the first four minutes, the teams combined to make two of 15 shots. The Tar Heels led 4-2 at the first media timeout.

Malik Osborne got the Seminoles going from deep out of the timeout. Osborne found all net on a corner triple off a nice find from Scottie Barnes. Osborne hit his second straight three in the opposite corner two minutes later to give the ‘Noles an 8-6 lead. Scottie Barnes provided an early highlight with a poster slam over Walker Kessler in transition. The dunk gave Florida State a 12-6 lead at the under-12 timeout.

The Seminoles quickly opened up a nine-point lead as Balsa Koprivica laid in a basket inside while being fouled by Kessler for an and-one. UNC quickly responded with buckets on their next two possessions from Garrison Brooks and RJ Davis. Barnes’ aggression swung the momentum back in the Seminoles’ favor. The freshman went right at Brooks on a one-on-one breakaway after a steal and converted on a tough layup for an and-one. Koprivica connected on a hook shot on an iso play as the Seminoles took a double-digit lead. FSU led 24-13 at the under-8.

The Seminoles and Tar Heels both went ice cold over the next three+ minutes. Both teams made just one shot. Leonard Hamilton called a timeout after an Anthony Harris mid-range jumper cut the FSU lead to nine with 4:16 remaining in the half. Anthony Polite got the Seminoles back in the scoring column with a floater off the glass in the paint. Walker followed with an aggressive take in the paint on FSU’s next possession to push the lead to 13.

The Tar Heels started to upper their defensive intensity over the next couple minutes. Full-court pressure led to a FSU turnover and two Walker Kessler free throws which cut the lead back to single digits. Gray silenced a rising UNC crowd with a crucial mid-range jumper in the face of Brooks. After a Caleb Love triple from way downtown, Osborne drained a step-back triple as the buzzer rang on the half. His third triple made it a 35-24 FSU lead going to the locker rooms.

The Seminoles shot 47% from the floor while UNC was hitting just 27% of their shots. The Tar Heels made just one triple and Osborne had all three of FSU’s. Florida State has 22 paint points to UNC’s eight. The Tar Heels had 11 more free throw attempts than the Seminoles, but made just five more. The ‘Noles did a solid job of rebounding against UNC’s bigs, limiting the Tar Heels to nine offensive boards and out-rebounding them by one board. Osborne’s nine points led the way. Koprivica added seven points and seven boards in the half.

Armando Bacot got the Tar Heels off on the right foot to start the half. The big man converted an and-one to quickly limit the deficit to 8. The Seminoles turned the ball over on their first two possessions. After another Bacot bucket, Koprivica made FSU’s first basket off the half on a put-back. Caleb Love drained his second triple of the day off a Walker turnover to cut the deficit to four just four minutes into the half. Hamilton took his second timeout with FSU up 40-36 with 15:33 remaining.

FSU used their defense to swing the momentum back in their favor. Sardaar Calhoun stole the ball from Kerwin Walton coming up the court and slammed it home for an easy dunk. Tanor Ngom got in on the action on the next UNC possession, as he drew a charge on Love. After the first media timeout of the half, Walton responded with his first triple to cut the FSU lead to three. Koprivica pushed the lead to six with a dunk off a Barnes assist, but Walton couldn’t miss. Off of a steal and a long offensive board, Walton drained another one to tie the game. A tough Bacot lay-up gave the Tar Heels their first lead since six minutes into the game. UNC led 48-46 with 11:32 remaining after Hamilton’s third timeout.

The Tar Heels continued to overwhelm the ‘Noles down low with their size after the timeout. Day’Ron Sharpe converted an and-one to give the Heels a five-point lead. Sharpe took advantage of a matchup with Polite on the next possession for another easy bucket. Four straight points from Barnes brought the ‘Noles back within three. The ‘Noles took the lead back after two Gray free throws, a UNC turnover, and another Koprivica dunk off a Barnes feed. Florida State led 54-53 at the under-8 media timeout.

North Carolina’s Leaky Black went one for two at the line out of the timeout to make it a tie game with 7:47 remaining. On the other end, Walker was two for two to gain a two-point lead. Koprivica finished a transition bucket to extend the lead to four with six minutes left. Love tied the game at 59 with a step-back three-pointer over Koprivica, but Calhoun responded on the next possession with a triple of his own. Calhoun fouled Davis on a three-point attempt to send the game to the last media timeout. FSU led 62-61, but Davis would shoot three after the TO.

Davis made all three out of the break to give UNC a two-point lead with 3:14 remaining. Love was called for an off-ball foul on the next possession, but Polite missed the front end of a one-and-one to end the possession. A shot-clock violation on UNC’s possession handed the ball back to the ‘Noles and Polite made up for the missed free throw with a corner three to give FSU a one-point lead with 1:46 remaining.

An empty possession after an ugly shot from Caleb Love put the ball back in FSU’s hands. Walker made a tough basket in the paint, but the bucket was negated by a charge. Florida State’s defense stepped up again, as Davis couldn’t make a contested layup and Gray grabbed the board. Gray made both of his free throws to give FSU a three-point lead with 35 seconds left.

The Tar Heels missed their seventh straight field goal, but Barnes was called for a rebounding foul to put Sharpe at the line. It didn’t prove costly for FSU, as Sharpe missed both free throws. Koprivica made one of two at the line to give FSU a two-possession lead with 16 seconds left. Leaky Black put back an air-ball to make it a two-point game with three seconds left. Walker went one for two from the line to make it a three-point lead with one second remaining. The Tar Heels couldn’t connect on a last second heave and the ‘Noles danced their way into the ACC Tournament final.

Florida State shot 45.3% from the floor and were 5-13 from beyond the arc. UNC shot just 33.8% and missed 11 of their 25 free throws. Koprivica led the way for FSU with 17 points and 11 boards. Barnes added 11 points, five boards, and four assists.

Florida State will play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 8:30 PM on ESPN tomorrow night for the ACC Tournament title.

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