‘Noles finish off schedule with a win

Led by a junior on Senior Day, Florida State rode a career-high 23 points from guard Michael Snaer to an 80-72 victory over Clemson. Now the 'Noles can prepare themselves for the ACC Tournament.

In what was the final game for six Florida State seniors, it was junior Michael Snaer who stole the show.

The 6-5 guard scored a career-high 23 points in the Seminoles' 80-72 victory over the Clemson Tigers in the regular-season finale for both schools. Snaer eclipsed 1,000 points for his career when he drained a 3-pointer late in the second half. He was 5 of 7 from beyond the arc on the afternoon.

"That's a tremendous accomplishment for a junior," said coach Leonard Hamilton.

Hamilton and Co. hope that a bigger accomplishment can be earned when the team begins ACC Tournament play next weekend. FSU will have a bye and won't have its first game until Friday.

If the ‘Noles are going to have a chance to capture an ACC Tournament title, then they are going to need not only great contributions from Snaer, but he will demand help from the entire squad.

That is precisely the type of effort they received Sunday.

Five players scored in double figures, which included three seniors. Xavier Gibson and Bernard James had 13 a piece, while Luke Loucks added 10 and Ian Miller poured in 11. James also posted 11 rebounds to secure his seventh double-double of the season.

James and Gibson paced the ‘Noles early on before the guards joined the party. FSU played to its identity, which is to establish itself in the paint and then play inside-outside off of the bigs. James and Gibson had been able to do just that, which opened up the 3-point line for the guards.

Florida State shot 58 percent from 3. That proved to be the difference, since Clemson made four more field goals but five fewer from downtown.

"Tonight, they got us," said Clemson coach Brad Brownell. "They have good inside players. They have guards that can make shots and are very experienced."

Experience is a major advantage that the ‘Noles will have over most opponents when they enter the single-elimination madness that is March.

With six seniors, four of whom have participated in three straight NCAA Tournaments, the Seminoles should be plenty seasoned for the grueling possession-by-possession game that they will encounter beginning next weekend in Atlanta.

Florida State is most certainly guaranteed a seed in the 68-team NCAA Tournament, but it will have an opportunity to improve or worsen its résumé based on next weekend's conference tournament. The Seminoles will enter the tournament as a three seed for the third consecutive campaign and hope to avenge last season's disappointing ACC finish.

Virginia Tech ousted Florida State in the quarterfinals of this past year's league tournament. Former FSU guard Derwin Kitchen's buzzer-beating jumpshot was ruled to come after time expired following video replay, and the ‘Noles subsequently fell 52-51.

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If the Seminoles are going to have more success in the conference tournament this year, then they have to follow the offensive principles that guided them in their most recent victory. Solid play inside combined with sharp outside shooting is what FSU must maintain in order to erase last year's heartbreaking ending.

More simply put, college basketball in March comes down to shotmaking. It's all about what teams are going to make their shots and what teams aren't, what teams are going to bury those open looks and what teams are going to clank them off the iron.

Florida State has proven all season that it can step up and make shots when they are most important. Let's sit back and see if that continues during what is the most exciting month in college basketball.

Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.

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