The Seminoles notch their second straight win after a tough 74-70 victory at home. They played with a confidence on the offensive end that FSU fans haven’t seen much of in the past two months. Florida State ended the game shooting 41% from three, while recording eight blocks. They’re now 6-0 against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Tallahassee.
Player of the game: Butler started the game like he was practicing on a shooting machine, going 3-3 from beyond the arc in the first five minutes while posting two monster blocks in the first half. He finished the game with 16 points and eight boards.
Florida State welcomed the red hot Fighting Irish into the Tucker Center that’s never allowed a win against Notre Dame. An early half spark on the offensive end propelled the Noles to a much needed win, knocking down six threes in the first half.
Head coach Leonard Hamilton and company decided to roll with RayQuan Evans, Anthony Polite, Wyatt Wilkes, John Butler and Tanor Ngom to start the game. Freshman Mathew Cleveland was ruled out just before tipoff with an apparent sickness. Polite joined the lineup for the first time since Jan.29 against Virginia Tech.
Wilkes stroked it first for the Noles with a three ball early in the game and Evans followed that up with a bucket inside the paint to put them up 5-2. At the 17:52 mark in the first half Jalen Warley and Harrison Prieto checked in just before back-to-back three’s by the Seminoles. FSU found early success on the offensive end but their transition defense was a problem, letting ND phenom Blake Wesley get inside the painted area whenever he knocked on the door.
Butler hit two straight three’s to put the Noles up 17-11 as both teams met for the first official timeout. The Seminoles were shooting 5-5 from three point land and 6-8 from the field just five minutes into the game. Cam’Ron Fletcher entered the game with 13:54 remaining in the first. Florida State overcame a two minute scoring drought after a steal from Ngom that led to a put-back dunk from Polite on the other end. With 11:27 left in the half the Noles were leading 21-18.
The Fighting Irish cut the deficit to 25-24 as the Seminoles continued their rubbish transitioned defense. As both teams entered the under eight minute timeout Butler led the Noles with 11 points shooting a perfect 4-4 from the field and Wesley led the Irish with nine. ND ended a two minute scoring drought after back-to-back buckets inside the paint to take the lead 31-29.
Notre Dame jawed away to get their first comfortable lead with three straight triples, entering the locker-room up 44-39. The Seminoles saw success on the offensive end right off the tip but their miscommunication on the defensive end led to ND hitting their last four attempts in the first. Both teams shot just one free throw in the first half, but Notre Dames patience helped them achieve better efficiency to come out on top.
After a combined 10 lead changes and ties entering the half the Irish found themselves in the driver seat, despite leading for just 3:38 in the first. The Seminoles needed to focus on controlling their help defense and communicating to close easy gaps that ND took advantage of later in the half. Notre Dame outscored the Noles 26-16 in the paint while securing 15 second chance points.
Polite connected off a handoff by Ngom to plug in a three ball in the first play of the half. Warley and Prieto checked in at the 17:32 mark when the Noles were down 46-42. Prieto and Wilkes hit back-to-back threes to tie up the ball game at 48 and Butler followed that with a basket in the paint and three of his own to give FSU a 53-48 lead. They continued to find the bottom of the night but their defense was a glaring problem as ND cut the lead to 53-52 in a matter of seconds.
Butler took a breather on the bench, leading all scorers with 16 on 6-9 from the field midway through the second half. Ngom took his scoring responsibilities soon after, notching buckets on back-to-back plays and the Seminoles found a 61-54 lead. ND was shooting 1-7 in that time, but came out with some fire and cut the deficit to 61-59 in two minute of game action. Wesley had 17 points and six rebounds for the Irish, putting the team on his back with the help of Paul Atkinsons paint presence.
With 7:22 left in the matchup the Noles were leading 61-59 with four team fouls. Notre Dame made a push with Wesley and Atkinson yet again and they were down 65-62 with five minutes remaining. Warley and Prieto checked in to give Ngom some time to rest, after he’d already posted 12 points and five rebounds. Wesley continued to show the in-house scouts why he’s a potential lottery pick, taking over in transition to lead the Irish.
The sloppiness started to pile up for the Noles as Butler missed two free throws and Prieto along with Evans air-balled a couple shots late in the shot clock. Florida State called a timeout with 1:27 remaining as they held a 69-67 lead. Polite knocked down a heavy set three to light up the crowd but Atkinson found the bottom of the net for an and-one on the very next play and the Noles were up 72-70. Evans was at the line to ice the game yet again and he put FSU up 74-70 as the Noles closed out a win at the Tucker Center.
Butler led the Seminoles with 16 point and eight rebounds. Wesley guided the Irish with 21 points and six boards on the night. The Seminoles protect home court advantage against one of the hottest teams in the ACC, showing how good their depth truly is.
The Noles are now 16-13 on the season and 9-10 in conference play. They are now guaranteed to end the year with a winning record for the 17th consecutive season.
Next game: Florida State will host the NC State Wolfpack this Saturday at 2:00 ET, celebrating senior night for the Seminoles. The Wolfpack are currently 11-18 on the season and 4-14 in the conference. The game will be featured on ESPN2.