Florida was fighting to catch up the entire game. The Seminoles led for 35:23 on Tuesday night, and when the Gators were able to get back in the game, Florida State answered. Freshman guard Dwayne Bacon hit a pull-up, 10-foot jumper with four seconds left to give the Seminoles a 73-71 win in Gainesville.
“Tough deal for our guys, our seniors and our fans,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Our guys fought. In the last 15 minutes, we played as hard as we can possibly play. We almost did enough. To lose a game like that is very difficult.”
Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith hit a layup with 23 seconds left in the game, tying it at 71. The Seminoles called a full timeout with 17 seconds left to draw up a play, but there wasn’t much doubt where the ball was going. Bacon was FSU’s best player throughout the game, and he beat Florida guard Kasey Hill off the dribble, nailing a jumper to push him to 24 points and helping the Seminoles to the win.
White said he didn’t want to take Hill off the floor for a player that had been on the bench for a few minutes. Chris Chiozza’s desperation three-pointer didn’t fall as time expired, and it was Bacon that did enough to give the Seminoles the win.
The loss didn’t hurt the shine behind KeVaughn Allen’s performance. The freshmen scored 32 points (10-18 FG, 3-7 3PT) while going 9-9 from the free throw line. In the first half, Allen was 5-6 from the floor while the rest of the Florida players were 5-20.
It took the Gators a furious comeback to even be in the game late. The Seminoles led by 13 points with 16:06 left to play, and Florida slowly started to chip away. A 9-3 run midway through the second half cut the lead to three points, ending on a Hill layup that brought the energy in the O’Connell Center back.
But every time the Gators tried to get back in the game, Florida State was able to answer and extend the lead again.
“It felt like every run we made, whether it was Dwayne Bacon stepping up or (Xavier Rathan-Mayes) or Bookert, they just answered every run that we made,” White said. “They stepped up and stopped those runs with scores.”
The teams played a close game in the first half with FSU’s lead never eclipsing six points until the final minute. Four different Seminoles scored over the last 2:19 of the first half, sparking a 10-0 run that gave FSU a 41-31 lead at halftime.
“That was probably the most important part of the game,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Florida opens SEC play on Saturday by hosting Georgia at 8 p.m.