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November 29, 2013

Florida uses late FTs to top FSU 67-66

Extra Hoops Notes and Nuggets from Gainesville

GAINESVILLE - This close.

Ian Miller's last-second heave Friday night was on line, and inches away from going in. It clanged away, leaving FSU this close to pulling off another upset of a ranked team - the second near-victory for a Seminole program clawing to get back into the national picture.

Instead, FSU was left with an aching 67-66 loss at Florida.

"We're this close," Miller said. "To being the talk of the nation. To being a great team. To being ranked. To being a team of significance. And I think we're ringing the bell around the country. I think teams know we're pretty good, but we want to be winning."

It was the second almost-win for FSU (5-2) against a highly touted team. Florida (6-1) is ranked No. 15 in the AP poll, just like Michigan was ranked No. 14 in the AP when FSU lost in overtime to the Wolverines last week.

On Friday, FSU had to find a new way to keep the game close. The explosive, guard-driven offense that toppled then No. 10 VCU and gave Michigan fits was nowhere to be found. Instead, Florida's defense suffocated FSU's backcourt and forced the Seminoles to look inside to the post.

"If they're going to trap me then I'm going to hit Bobo and Ojo," Miller said. "Because it's their man coming off trapping. So we just had to find other options and it was working for us."

Sophomore centers Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo responded in a big way. The pair combined for 24 points on 9-of-9 shooting on Friday. Ojo and Bojanovsky came into Friday's game averaging 6.7 points per game combined between the two of them.

Bojanovsky in particular provided an important early lift by scoring eight straight points to close out the first half and keep the game close while Okaro White and Ojo sat on the bench in foul trouble. Both players picked up their second foul, respectively, by the 8-minute mark of the first half.

"That's how we should play every game," Bojanovsky said. "It was good for us. Maybe they didn't expect it. I was just trying to do my best."

But it was late in the second half before FSU found an option outside of the post. When Florida opened up a nine-point lead with 5:42 to play on a series of three-pointers by Michael Frazier, Thomas and Miller finally found a groove.

The pair combined to score 17 of FSU's final 19 points during the final stretch, and Miller in particular made big play after big play. The senior guard hit two free throws, found Thomas for a layup and hit a three-pointer to make it a one-point game in a 45-second span.

"All good shooters are going to have nights like that," Miller said. "Ray Allen might miss five in a row but he's still going to take the sixth."

But on Friday, Florida had the trump card. The Gators bulled their way into 20 offensive rebounds, and No. 20 set up the win. Bojanovsky blocked or altered two successive shots but Dorian Finney-Smith hauled in the rebound and drew the critical foul with 1.3 seconds remaining. Smith hit one of two free throws to give UF the edge it needed.

"We defended well enough to get the stop," head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "But once again they went and got the offensive rebound and we fouled them."

And after another close loss to a ranked team, Hamilton said he can see the improvement. He just hopes FSU can put its pieces together - especially with yet another road trip coming up, this one to Minnesota.

"Our guys kept fighting, stretching and clawing, clawing and scratching," Hamilton said. "But came up a little short. Hopefully we'll learn from this one, we'll grow from it, realize we're awful close, and regroup."

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