Florida State probably should have run away with a victory over Coastal Carolina.
After all, the Seminoles (10-2) had won four straight games by an average of 20 points heading into Thursday night's contest and were looking for win No. 6 in a row overall. The Chanticleers (4-6), on the other hand, came into the game with three of their four wins coming against non-Division 1 opponents. They had been blown out by Xavier and lost big on the road at Campbell, Jacksonville and the College of Charleston.
Instead, FSU earned a 78-65 victory in game that Coastal Carolina trailed by six points with just over three minutes left to play.
"I just kept telling our guys to believe (that they can win) and that we've got to get a stop," Coastal Carolina Coach Buzz Peterson said. "There's a lot of parity in college basketball and an upset can happy any night."
After Jason Rich hit two free throws to increase the FSU lead to 71-63, guard Toney Douglas hit a jumper and then parlayed a Coastal Carolina turnover into a break away layup in less than 30 seconds.
The quick six-point swing was then followed by a Ralph Mims 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining, officially shutting the door on any hopes the Chanticleers may have of accomplishing that upset.
"We might have underestimated their quickness and ball-handling ability," FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton admitted. "To get that type of challenge and to be able to come away with the victory and learn and not come out with an easy 25- (or) 35-point victory is what this team needs this time of year."
Starting forward Al Thornton led all players with 21 points while Douglas and Rich each added 17 and 15, respectively.
Guard Isaiah Swann, who has struggled offensively this season, recorded six assists to go along with five points in the winning effort.
"He has been putting the ball in places where guys can get the ball and make plays," Hamilton said.
Florida State took a 43-31 lead into the halftime break led by 10 first-half points from Thornton.
Both teams made exactly half of their shots in the first half. FSU went to the free throw line 12 times – eight of which featured Thornton – compared to just one time for Coastal Carolina in the game's first 20 minutes. The Seminoles finished the game shooting 50.9 percent from the field.
FSU plays host to St. Peter's Saturday at noon in a game that was originally scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m. but because of a change in the Peacocks' flight schedule.
The Seminoles have a brief break for the holidays before facing Providence Dec. 29 to finish their out-of-conference schedule. They welcome Clemson to the Donald L. Tucker Center Jan. 3.
"I wish those guys good luck in league play except for one game – at Chapel Hill," said Peterson, who played basketball at UNC in the early 1980s and was a roommate of Michael Jordan.
FSU beats Coastal Carolina 78-65
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