FSU Comes Up Just Short

After fighting their way back from an early 23-9 deficit, the Florida State Seminoles saw a golden opportunity to beat a struggling North Carolina Tarheel team slip away. David Noel stole the ball from Anthony Richardson at the top of the circle and raced for a layup. Fouled instead by Richardson, Noel sank the first of two free throws that gave the ‘Heels a 61-60 victory in a back and forth affair over the final minutes.

After fighting their way back from an early 23-9 deficit, the Florida State Seminoles saw a golden opportunity to beat a struggling North Carolina Tarheel team slip away. David Noel stole the ball from Anthony Richardson at the top of the circle and raced for a layup. Fouled instead by Richardson, Noel sank the first of two free throws that gave the ‘Heels a 61-60 victory in a back and forth affair over the final minutes.

The loss marked the thirteenth straight road loss for the Seminoles in league play and stopped a five game skid for the Tarheels.

Foul trouble plagued the ‘Noles much of the game especially Tim Pickett. Pickett played a season low twenty minutes and fouled out for the first time this year. The only ACC player to score in double figures in every game this season managed just 8 points, but did record 4 steals that led to two baskets.

Florida State did just about everything it needed to do down the stretch to beat North Carolina except make that one needed play at the end of the game to pull it out. The ‘Noles basically had three chances, but each time North Carolina made the play that thwarted Florida State.

Richardson led the Seminoles with 17 points and fellow North Carolinian Michael Joiner added 12. But the pleasant surprise of the game for the ‘Noles was Benson Callier. Benefiting from Pickett's foul difficulties, the true freshman logged season highs in points (13), rebounds (6), and minutes played (20). Callier displayed some nice range nailing 3 of 4 three-point shots. It was his three from the left corner that gave FSU a 60-59 lead with just fifty seconds left.

For the Tarheels, Jawad Williams lit up the Seminoles for the second time this season this time with a game high 20 points. Jackie Manuel added 12 with 7 coming from the foul line. Noel, starting for the ailing Rashad McCants, scored 11 points. It was his defense near the end that saved it for UNC.

Early on Florida State's shooting was about as cold as it was outside the Dean Dome. Missing on their first six possessions, the ‘Noles did not score until Pickett stole the ball and took it coast to coast for a layup at the 15:50 mark. Meanwhile North Carolina was connecting on seemingly every three-point shot they put up. In fact 15 of their first 18 points were from behind the arc. The other three came from the free throw line when Joiner fouled Williams out above the key.

When Raymond Felton hit the sixth three-pointer of the game for ‘Heels, an animated Leonard Hamilton called his second timeout. UNC now led FSU by a score of 23-9 with just ten minutes gone.

Displaying more intensity following the timeout, the Seminoles proceeded to go on a 16-3 run led mostly by Richardson and Joiner. The defense picked it up as well as the Tarheels missed their next six three-point attempts in the half and scored just two baskets over the last ten minutes of the half.

Trailing 31-27, Callier had the highlight play of the day when an outlet pass made it to Galloway who then lobbed an alley oop to Callier coming in from the right side. The slam-dunk came with just three seconds left before intermission.

In what appeared to be a possible repeat of the first game, UNC came out strong. Williams scored eight consecutive points and Noel had an offensive putback.

FSU avoided the collapse it had in the December game regaining its intensity behind the shooting of Richardson. A couple of ten-foot jumpers and a drive and dish by Galloway to Richardson put North Carolina back on its heels. Callier's three from the left wing at the 12:59 mark tied the game at 44. Adam Waleskowski gave FSU its first lead when he tipped in a Nate Johnson missed three-point attempt.

It was anybody's game from then on as the lead switched several times.

Byron Sanders tied it up, but a nice backdoor play plus the foul by Richardson regained a three-point lead. Manuel sank four straight free throws to take the lead back 50-49. Callier took the lead back for FSU with a three, but Noel answered with a three of his own from the left wing. UNC now led 53-52 at the 7:22 mark.

Joiner got the lead back once again for the Seminoles with a three-pointer from above the key. The ‘Noles stretched it to four when Callier intercepted a pass on the right wing and drove to the rim evading two Tarheel defenders. His layup missed, but Richardson was right there for the offensive putback.

With UNC now down 57-53 at the 3:49 mark, Felton closed it to one with a three from just left of the circle. Noel beat Richardson down the left side baseline to take the lead back for FSU 58-57.

Galloway got caught in the air with nowhere to go and threw the ball away. Twenty seconds later at the 2:05 mark Manuel made the first of two free throws. Callier garnered the rebound. But UNC made the first of several key plays down the stretch when Noel blocked a Richardson shot.

Callier contributed once again on defense when he blocked Felton's shot on the ensuing possession. It was his three-pointer on the next possession that had UNC fans worried. With the shot clock at ten, Johnson drove left down the lane and kicked it to Callier in the left corner. Manuel could only wave at the high arcing shot that gave FSU a 60-59 lead with fifty seconds remaining.

Following that shot Manuel was fouled by Callier, but he missed both free throws. In another key play for Carolina, Joiner grabbed the rebound but had the ball stolen away by Noel. The ball bounced to Williams who was fouled. He made the first to tie the game at 60 with twenty-nine seconds left in the game. The game remained tied when he missed the second attempt. Callier came up big once again going high to grab the rebound.

Florida State played for the last shot that never happened. FSU took its final timeout with twenty-one seconds left. Hamilton had choice to go with the hot hand in Callier who had never been in a game-winning situation like this in college or to go with the more experienced Richardson. Hamilton apparently chose Richardson.

Johnson inbounded to Richardson who passed back to Galloway. As he crossed the timeline, Galloway moved to the left wing. Johnson downscreened to allow Richardson to pop up from the left block to the circle. Noel, who was guarding Galloway, read the play perfectly. Richardson turned right into Noel as he received the pass from Galloway. Noel stripped the ball and raced towards the other end for the basket. Richardson chased him down fouling him before Noel could get a good shot up.

With a little more than five seconds left, Noel made the first, but missed the second free throw. FSU's last chance was Joiner rebounding the ball and outletting to Johnson on the sideline. Johnson launched a shot as he crossed the timeline. It never touched iron.

Hamilton said he felt his team did the things he wanted them to do during the game, but credited North Carolina's effort in pulling out the win.

Florida State will try and get its third conference victory Wednesday night against defending national champion Maryland. Tipoff is at 9:00 PM.


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