Gators nip 'Noles

A sellout crowd of 12,060 at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center watched the scrappy Florida State Seminoles nearly knock off the No. 8 Florida Gators. The 'Noles gave the Gators fits before dropping a 58-57 heartbreaker.

Coming into tonight's game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Florida Gators, Head Coach Leonard Hamilton was looking to see just what strides his young team had made in this young season.

Although FSU came up just one point short, 58-57, Hamilton saw enough to feel positive about his team's effort. A last second Tim Pickett three-point shot that would have won the game hit the back of the rim and given FSU its first home court victory against Florida since 1988.

Saying he realistically feels the Seminoles have a long way to go, this team has just scratched the surface of what it can do. And apparently, it has the potential to do quite a bit as it gave the 8th ranked Gators everything they could handle.

A sellout crowd of 12,060 saw a scrapping Seminole defense hold the always dangerous Gators to just 35% from the floor. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, Florida also played some tenacious defense holding FSU to 37% shooting.

But, the dagger to the Seminoles came off the bench in the form of freshman Anthony Roberson. Roberson scored 16 points for the Gators that included 4 of 10 from behind the arc. The guard's scoring outburst made up the majority of Florida's 22 bench points to just 10 for Florida State.

Leading the Gators in scoring was Matt Bonner with 18.

Game high honors went to Tim Pickett with 23 who added 8 rebounds. His shot from behind the line still did not find the range as he connected on 5 of 15. The only other Seminole in double figures was Andrew Wilson with 11. Wilson was even more off target with the long range shot making just one out of his six attempts.

The game was closely contested the entire way with three ties and eleven lead changes. FSU's largest lead came fairly early on at 9-3 when Michael Joiner was credited with a tip in that actually was off Bonner's hands. Justin Hamilton's up and under shot tied it at 14 and Roberson's three from the right corner gave Florida the lead.

That lead lasted less than a minute as Pickett scored the game's next four points for an 18-17 lead. A 6-0 run by Florida was capped off by one of two from the free throw line by Bonner with 2:25 remaining in the half. FSU's defense stiffened holding Florida to just two free throws the remainder of the first period.

Meanwhile a nice tic tac toe pass from Trevor Harvey to Wilson and back to Harvey resulted in a slam-dunk by the Bahamian. In addition to two Pickett free throws, Todd Galloway raced down the court, but missed the shot. Adam Wasleskowski was right there to collect the rebound that finished the scoring form the first half. Florida took a lead to the locker room that proved to be the final margin of victory at 25-24.

The second half saw each team try and confuse the other's offense with a variety of zone defenses thrown in at various times. Harvey scored FSU's first five points of the half to give FSU a 31-30 lead at the 16:52 mark. Florida took the lead right back and extended it 38-31 on back to back threes by Roberson. Hamilton called a timeout immediately to settle down his ragged defense.

While Hamilton managed to get his defense re-focused, his team had some difficulty taking care of the ball on offense due to the mixing of pressure and zone defense by the Gators. After two consecutive turnovers by FSU, the Noles' defense came to the rescue. Harvey knocked away the ball from Roberson and Picket raced the rest of the field for an easy layup. FSU trailed just 44-40 with 9:30 to play.

Florida maintained a four to six point lead for the next 3:24. Anthony Richardson had the ball stripped by Matt Walsh and Roberson finished the play for a 53-47 lead. Florida would score only one more basket over the remaining 6:06 thanks to a Seminole defense that forced Florida into some poor shot selections.

Wilson dove on the floor for a loose ball avoided the traveling call, and got the ball to Pickett who nailed a three from the right wing. FSU was down 56-55 with 2:28 left. Feeling the pressure of the situation, each team traded several turnovers over the next two minutes.

Through a cat and mouse game of timeouts, FSU had several chances in the last thirty seconds to take the lead and pull off the upset. Nate Johnson drove to the right of the lane, but was cut off. An outlet pass back to Pickett behind the line was also played well by the Gator defense. Johnson's forced 12 footer clanged off the rim. Roberson was quickly fouled and converted both charity shots to up the lead to 58-55 with only twenty five seconds left.

Johnson drove the lane once more and was successful getting a baseline pass from underneath the basket to Wilson who was well positioned on the left block. The shot was blocked, but Brett Nelson fouled the redshirt sophomore. Wilson calmly sank both shots and just twelve seconds remained. FSU press fouled Justin Hamilton who missed the front end of a one and one setting the scene for one last chance for the Seminoles.

Roberson's miss was tapped around and finally was corralled by Pickett who dribbled quickly down the court. Forced by lack of time and by Roberson preventing him from getting any closer to the arc, the shot was just inches shy of going through the cylinder.

Not one to take solace in a moral victory, Hamilton was extremely pleased with the way his team responded to being down late in the game having solid chances for the win. Both defenses just played very hard and FSU came up one shot short. In fact, Pickett's missed breakaway slam-dunk in the first half proved to be very costly.

The highlight shot of the game was on a three on one break. Pickett, streaking down the left wing passed to Galloway on the right. The freshman spotted a trailing Wilson coming down the lane and put a behind the back pass dead on the money for an easy layup.

FSU suffers its first loss on the season and falls to 3-1, but gets no time to think about what might have been. The Noles' take on the Miami Hurricanes Sunday at 2:00 PM.

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