Seminoles falter late, fall on road at No. 18 Clemson
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Unlike the last two road games they played, the Florida State Seminoles had a chance to pull off the win on Wednesday night against No. 18 Clemson.
But the NCAA-Tournament-bound Tigers were able to make enough shots -- including a critical off-the-top-of-the-backboard-and-back-into-the-basket 3-pointer midway through the second half -- to pull away for a 76-63 victory over FSU.
The Seminoles are now 19-9 overall and 8-9 in the ACC. Clemson, which went on a 12-2 run to close the game out, improves to 22-7 overall and 11-6 in the ACC.
"I think our defensive execution was pretty good," FSU forward Phil Cofer said. "They hit some tough shots. And we had some wide-open shots and they weren't just falling for us. But it just wasn't our night.
"... I think we've got to play that way all the time. No matter who we're playing and no matter what. I think everybody knows that and we're looking forward to the next game."
Florida State kept it close throughout. Unlike Sunday night's beatdown at N.C. State, it was in this one down the stretch. But every time the Seminoles got close, every time they got to within two or four points, Clemson made a play.
And in the closing minutes, they mostly came from point guard Marcquise Reed, who rose up over C.J. Walker on three straight trips for mid-range jumpers -- despite Walker challenging the shots closely.
The Seminoles couldn't get enough of their own to fall on the other end and left LittleJohn Coliseum with a tough defeat.
"They gave the ball to Reed in the critical part, when they had to have a basket," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "And he overpowered us and got three baskets in a row. That kind of kept us from getting any kind of momentum at all.
"That says a lot about a team that has a group of guys that are a little more mature. They don't seem to get rattled. They're connected together as a team."
The key stretch came with two minutes left. Down by four, Terance Mann missed three straight free throws -- he got an extra one because of a lane violation -- and then Phil Cofer missed a wide open 3 after Christ Koumadje's offensive rebound.
Mann missed the putback after Cofer's miss.
The Tigers then put the game away two trips later when Shelton Mitchell knocked down a wide-open 3 from the top of the key. Six straight free throws iced the game.
Cofer finished with a game-high 21 points. Braian Angola added 11. Mann, who is the team's leading scorer, finished with just three points and was 1 of 9 from the floor.
"I think every kid on every team in America, you'll always find one that's not playing as well as they're capable of playing," Hamilton said. "This was Terance's night. He's played well for us all year. I'm pleased with the way he's played. Tonight was not his night.
"He had a problem at the free-throw line. Did not shoot the ball well from the free-throw line. But I thought his effort was good. I just think he had one of those nights that every player in America will have. Unfortunately we've had a couple of them back to back. Maybe it's a good sign that we're getting them all out of the way now."
Florida State held Clemson to just 40 percent shooting from the floor, but the Tigers made 10 3-pointers to offset the cold shooting from inside.
Freshman Ike Obiagu had five more blocks on Wednesday night. He has 11 in his last two games. But the Seminoles still dropped to below .500 in the ACC and will almost certainly need a win on Saturday at home vs. Boston College to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida State played its best first half in a long while, but still found itself trailing by three at the break.
Clemson's Shelton Mitchell buried a 3-pointer right before the buzzer to give the Tigers a 35-32 halftime advantage. Phil Cofer had 13 of his team-high 21 before halftime.