Hot-shooting Seminoles pick up big road win at Syracuse
There was no way they could shoot as poorly as they did the first time.
Still, there weren't too many people expecting the Florida State men's basketball team to light up the Syracuse zone like they did on Saturday afternoon.
The Seminoles were 12-of-20 from 3-point range, with Wyatt Wilkes hitting a monster triple late in the game, as they rallied from an early 10-point deficit to knock off the Orange, 76-71, in the Carrier Dome.
The win also avenged last month's home loss to the Orange.
Florida State is now 10-5 on the season and 4-2 in the ACC. Leonard Hamilton's team has won three straight games and now hosts No. 8 Duke on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
"This was a big game," senior point guard Rayquan Evans said. "Road [wins] are hard to come by. And especially since they got us at home -- we owed them one.'"
The Seminoles were playing without second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Malik Osborne, who sat out with a sprained ankle. That meant players like reserve Quincy Ballard and walk-on Harrison Prieto got way more minutes than usual.
Prieto, in fact, played the final six minutes of the game and had a critical bucket down the stretch off an inbounds pass; he also played exceptional defense on the other end to help the Seminoles pull out the victory.
But the main reason FSU won was the main reason it lost the first time the two teams played: Shooting.
In the first contest, the Seminoles were a woeful 4-of-30 from 3-point range.
"When I went back and looked at the game, we got great shots," Hamilton said. "Maybe higher percentage shots than we got tonight -- it just didn't fall. ... Tonight, we were a little more focused. We've played enough games that we were a little more relaxed mentally and emotionally. ...
"I think we're just showing a little growth and maturity. And that's what you like to see from your kids this time of year."
On Saturday, the Seminoles had much crisper ball movement against the zone. And three different players -- Caleb Mills, Evans and Wilkes -- hit multiple 3-pointers in the win.
Mills was 5-of-6 by himself and finished with a team-high 19 points.
Trailing 64-61, the Houston transfer calmly knocked down a step-back 3 to tie the game. Then, two possessions later, he buried another one to give the Seminoles a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Without Osborne, the Seminoles struggled at times on defense, but they got the stop when they absolutely had to have it.
Leading 72-71 in the final minute, Mills forced a missed shot from Jimmy Boehiem, the ball was deflected out to Evans, who passed it to Polite, who then kicked it ahead to freshman Matthew Cleveland for a dunk with 3.9 seconds left.
Evans then stole the inbounds pass and made both free throws to put the game away.
Evans, who made the game-winning free throws with 0.8 seconds left to beat Miami on Tuesday, finished with a season-high 15 points and five assists in 30 minutes.
Wilkes had 11 and Cleveland added nine.
Prieto, who didn't play a single minute in the past two ACC games for the Seminoles, finished with four points and three steals and was a plus-14 in 15 minutes on the court.
'"For him to come in and have that impact on the game was great," Evans said of his fellow senior. "I truly believe that he changed the game for us. Immediately when he came in, the tempo changed and everything. It was great to see him have that game."
"I thought he really gave us tremendous leadership," Hamilton said.
The Seminoles shot 55 percent from the floor in the game and were 60 percent from 3-point range. They knocked down 7-of-10 from beyond the arc in the second half.
Syracuse was led by Buddy Boeheim's 18 points.
Florida State's bench outscored the Orange 29-4.
Hamilton said the Seminoles didn't know Osborne would not be unavailable until Friday, and he added that he's doubtful the senior will be back in time for Tuesday's game with Duke.