Hamilton post-game PCClick Photos: FSU-ClemsonClick Here to view this Link. / Here to view this Link.
The Florida State basketball team hasn't made a habit of letting games get away in the waning moments of this season's contests.
That makes Sunday's loss to Clemson that much tougher to swallow.
Given an opportunity to pick up a resume-building fourth consecutive win, and ensure an above-.500 finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Seminoles let a late lead slip away and fell, 53-50, to the Tigers in front of 9,153 at the Tucker Center.
The Seminoles (2-8, 8-6 ACC) held a 47-42 advantage with under 2:10 remaining in the second half, but Clemson (20-8, 8-6) went on an 11-3 run to close out the game. Of those points, four came from senior forward Trevor Booker, who made each of his last-minute free throws and finished with a game-high 19 points.
Booker also finished with one block - a crucial defensive play that came on Deividas Dulkys' potential game-tying 3-point attempt with five seconds remaining. Booker then snagged the ball, was fouled, and subsequently put the game away at the free throw line.
"Obviously this is a very, very painful loss," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Because I felt that we had put ourselves in position where if we had made better decisions or made a free throw here, or made a better defensive stop, then we very well could have come away with a very important victory that was within our grasp."
Had they made a few more plays in the first half, the Seminoles just might have been able to put the game away before halftime.
Both teams balanced defensive prowess with offensive ineptitude, as the Seminoles built a 19-6 lead with less than five minutes to play in the opening period.
But the Tigers slowly found their offensive rhythm, chipping away and then cutting the lead to 21-19 with Andre Young's desperate half-court buzzer-beater.
"They definitely had the momentum going there in the half," guard Luke Loucks said. "When he hit that shot, it's one of those things that you really can't hang your head about. It's a 1-in-100 shot and he hit it. It came back to haunt us down the stretch."
Ryan Reid, Michael Snaer, and Derwin Kitchen each finished with eight points, but no Seminole scored in double figures. Florida State shot 38.1 percent from the floor and had 20 turnovers against eight assists.
As Hamilton put it, the Seminoles hardly have time for a pity party. FSU currently finds itself in a four-way tie for third place in the conference with one of its companions, Wake Forest, visiting Tallahassee for a crucial tilt on Wednesday night.
"We've got a very good Wake Forest team coming in on Wednesday, and we've got to find a way to bounce back," Hamilton said. "Most of the time this team regroups, gathers themselves, analyzes the mistakes that we've made, and we come back and normally make amends."
Said Loucks: "You can't really put into words the way this feels. But it's almost a good thing that it feels like this because I know our team is going to use this as motivation for the next game. It's terrible."