Mike Brey’s 15th-ranked Irish might have shown more in defeat Wednesday night in Tallahassee than they did in any of their 16 wins to date.
In a nip-and-tuck ACC battle, Notre Dame chipped away at a late 77-70 Florida State advantage and had a chance to tie in the final seconds thanks to a Steve Vasturia three-pointer and subsequent V.J. Beachem steal.
Beachem, however, attempted a contested shot near the rim and Bonzie Colson did the same – neither rang true as time expired but both would have been for naught as Florida State held off their guests 83-80 at the Donald Tucker Civic Center.
Neither Beachem, nor possibly Colson, realized the Seminoles lead was three rather than just two in the waning seconds.
Final ticks of the clock notwithstanding, ACC basketball fans were treated to a unique clash of styles between Brey’s basketball savvy sharpshooters and head coach Leonard Hamilton’s 11-player strong band of high-flying athletes.
The best among them, at least Wednesday night, was Seminoles freshman Jonathan Isaac. The Naples, Fla.-native finished with a game-high 23 points, a game-high 10 rebounds, and a game-changing 7 blocked shots.
Sophomore guard P.J. Savoy chipped in with 12 points off the bench for the Seminoles, an unexpected boost that included a blitzkrieg of three-point shots – plus three free throws on a deep miss to boot. All of Savoy’s points came in the first half. .
Steve Vasturia led the Irish with 18 including nine points and an assist in the final seven minutes. It was Vasturia who gave the Irish a chance late with a three-pointer from the right wing, cutting the host’s lead from six to three with just seven seconds remaining.
Matt Farrell added 17 for Notre Dame to go with seven assists. Farrell though committed six turnovers – five in the first half – as he was harassed continuously by a wave of Florida State defenders.
The Vasturia/Farrell combo connected on 7-of-10 shots from beyond the arc. They were however blocked or altered often when venturing inside the lane, missing on 13 of 18 two-point field goal attempts.
Brey’s Irish knocked down a remarkable 15 of 21 three-point attempts including a spinning corner triple by sophomore Rex Pflueger that cut Florida State’s lead to two, 79-77.
V.J. Beachem notched 14 points for the Irish, finding his groove from beyond the arc (3-for-3 in the second half) as Notre Dame battled back. The senior however committed a crucial turnover attempting to score at the rim on Notre Dame’s ensuing possession with the visitors trailing 81-77 with 12 seconds remaining.
Florida State connected on six consecutive free throws over the final 26 seconds to keep their guests at bay.
The Irish committed a season high 18 turnovers (vs. 18 assists). Florida State blocked 11 shots and connected on exactly 50 percent of its field goal attempts, finishing 30-for-60 and 7-for-17 from long range. Leading score Dwayne Bacon was limited to 11 points on 13 shots, fouling out late.
Notre Dame freshman guard T.J. Gibbs scored 12 points off the bench, 11 in the first half. Junior Bonzie Colson was held to nine points on eight shots vs. the towering Seminoles front line. He finished with eight rebounds, his first game without double digit rebounds in league action.
Tenth-ranked Florida State improved to 17-2 overall, 5-1 in the ACC. The Irish, now 16-3, lost for the first time in eight contests and fell into a three-way tie with the Seminoles and North Carolina atop the conference.
Florida State has won 13 of its last 14 games, the last five of which (and its forthcoming contest vs. Louisville as well) occurred against foes ranked among the nation’s Top 25.null