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February 9, 2014

Miami spoils Ian Miller's return in 77-73 upset

Ian Miller made his comeback on Monday night, but Florida State couldn't complete it with a win.

The Seminoles fell behind early against Miami and never led in a 77-73 loss on Monday night at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Miller scored 13 points after missing the last two games with a sprained ankle, but it wasn't enough to finish the comeback.

The loss is a major hit for FSU's NCAA tournament hopes. The Hurricanes had lost five of their last six games entering the night, and were tied for 12th place in the ACC. Florida State started ACC play 3-1, but has gone 2-6 since then. Miami entered the night ranked No. 108 in the RPI, and FSU beat the Hurricanes 63-53 on Jan. 15 in Coral Gables.

"Obviously we've dug kind of a deep hole for ourselves," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We have to find a way to muster enough energy to finish our season with some wins and put ourselves in a good position going into the ACC tournament and see how successful we can be."

Miller began the game on the bench and sparked the Seminoles offensively as they fell behind by as many as 12 in the first half, but Miami's hot shooting kept FSU at bay. The Hurricanes went 7-15 from 3-point range for the game.

"Not until Ian Miller went on a roll at the end of the first half did I get concerned," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.

The senior, who was FSU's leading scorer before suffering his injury on Feb. 1, played 34 minutes. Hamilton didn't know if he would be available until after warm-ups. He knocked down his first attempt, a 3-pointer, to pull FSU within five points with 8:34 to go in the first half. He scored 11 points on 4-5 shooting, including 3-4 from 3-point range, in the first half. But he had just two points after the break as FSU struggled to overcome Miami's lead.

Miller said his ankle felt "80 percent" after the game. He'd expected to play in FSU's loss to Maryland on Saturday, but was a late scratch because of his ankle. His status will be evaluated moving forward based on how his ankle recovers from the game.

"I just told coach to use me if we had to (tonight)," Miller said. "If he needed me to play, I was ready."

FSU cut the lead to four points or fewer on six separate occasions, but couldn't make the final push to tie the game or take the lead. The game's only tie came with the score at 3-3, before Miami built a lead it spent the rest of the game protecting.

The Hurricanes' hot shooting wasn't just beyond the 3-point stripe. Miami shot 23-48 on field goals and went 24-33 at the free throw line, while FSU went 10-14 on free throws. The Seminoles actually won the rebounding battle 32-27 and shot 50 percent from the field for the game.

"You can always point to officiating but in reality, you have to be aggressive off the bounce and when you throw the ball inside," Hamilton said. "That was the biggest issue I was concerned with."

Senior forward Okaro White scored 14 points on 4-7 shooting to move into sole possession of 24th place on the all-time scoring list for FSU. It was also his 127th game, moving him into eighth place all-time in games play in school history.

Point guard Devon Bookert led FSU with 17 points and five assists, but many of his baskets came after the game was all but decided. Sophomore guard Aaron Thomas had 16 points on 6-12 shooting. Senior guard Donnavan Kirk led four Hurricanes in double figures with 16 points on 6-7 shooting.

FSU slowly fought its way back into the game after trailing by 13 early in the second half. The Seminoles first threatened to take the lead when White's layup pulled FSU within four points with 10:30 to go. Miami wouldn't relinquish its lead though, knocking down timely shots and forcing the Seminoles to keep pace.

"We were right there," Hamilton said. "Sometimes it's not as much about what we didn't do, they just made some really tough shots."

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