Calling the loss "disheartening", Head Coach Leonard Hamilton said even though the offense moved the ball around well and played unselfish in the first half, they didn't do the extra things to win the game. Not diving for the lose ball, not blocking out, not aggressively getting that rebound, or making that steal resulted in missed opportunities.
Lack of defensive discipline led to 11 uncontested shots in the first half. The Tigers translated that into 21 points. Hamilton added the Tigers played like they wanted it more. Hamilton stated before the game one of his keys to the game would be which team played with more desire. Unfortunately, his team could not deliver the intensity the coach requires.
Unlike the first meeting between the two teams, Clemson point guard Ed Scott torched the ‘Noles for 29 points. By the half, Scott had 18 of those in the first twenty minutes. In fact, the Tigers had three players in double figures by the time intermission came. Olu Babalola finished with 15 and Chey Christie added 12 for the game.
Pickett, in foul trouble most of the game, was limited to just 7 points. That only left Anthony Richardson (16 points) and Todd Galloway (11 points) to carry the Seminoles' offense. It wasn't nearly enough.
Early on it looked like the game could be a closely contested affair. There were three lead changes and one tie in the first four plus minutes. Babalola's shot from just inside the arc gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. Christie added a basket and Scott's three ball doubled up the ‘Noles 12-6.
Pickett displayed some of that unselfishness Hamilton talked about when he dished off to Trevor Harvey whose spin move closed the gap to 16-13. But, Harvey picked up two quick fouls right after that basket and found himself on the bench for most of the remaining12:12 of the half. Scott hit another three and FSU now trailed 21-13. With Harvey on the bench, FSU's inside presence was greatly diminished and FSU's offense was affected.
Clemson did commit a number of fouls giving FSU the bonus with 10:18 left in the half. However, Mathews missed the front end of the one and one on two separate occasions. On the rebound of Mathews' second trip to the line, Clemson pushed the ball and Babalola converted the transition play. He followed Michael Joiner's uncontested baseline layup with a transition three off the inbound play. Christie and Scott piled on and Clemson now led 36-22 at the 4:38 mark.
Scott's runner that banked in off the glass gave Clemson its largest lead of the half 40-24. The only answer was Richardson who scored five points over the remaining 2:49. That definitely did not meet Hamilton's winning by committee approach as the ‘Noles went to the locker room down 44-29.
FSU did display a bit more energy coming out of the intermission. After not forcing Clemson into one turnover in the first half, the Seminoles' defense forced Christie and Scott to dribble the ball off the leg and out of bounds. Meanwhile that committee approach got going much better. Five different Seminoles scored over the first twelve minutes. Nate Johnson's two free throws with 8:39 left got the Seminoles to within eight at 52-44. Shawan Robinson answered right back with a three from the right deep corner. Galloway immediately answered that seconds later with a three-pointer and down just 55-47 at the 8:01 mark.
Thirty seconds later it all caved in for the Seminoles when Pickett was called for his fifth foul on Scott's leaner. The three-point play ignited an 11-1 Tiger run that virtually sealed the game for Clemson.
If FSU had any hopes, they were promptly erased when Babalola slam-dunked one in transition with 4:44 left giving Clemson a 68-50 lead. Just to make sure though, Adam Waleskowski fouled out and Scott made the conventional three-point play for a 71-52 Tiger lead.
Despite shooting well in the game (47%), Florida State's defense gave up 50% from the floor. Giving up 40% from behind the arc on 6 of 15 shooting did not help either.
The loss brings FSU to an even .500 mark for the first time this season. The 12-12, 3-10 Seminoles also have now lost 15 straight ACC road games. That likely will grow to 16 when the ‘Noles travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 6 where they have never won.
In the meantime, FSU returns home where they have played much better. However they will have to take on the league leading Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Tipoff is Wednesday night at 9:00 PM.