Feb. 10, 2014
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By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In a battle of two slumping teams playing their third game in a six-day stretch, Miami mustered just enough energy to hold off Florida State, 77-73 Monday night for an Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Trailing by as many as 13 points just two minutes into the second half, the Seminoles (14-10, 5-7 ACC) twice cut the deficit to three, but could never get over the hump against the Hurricanes. Miami (12-12, 3-8) withstood the second half surge by converting 10 of 14 free throws over the final 1:05 to hand the Seminoles their fifth loss in six games.
"We've dug a deep hole for ourselves and we've got to muster up enough energy to finish our season with some wins going into the ACC Tournament," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team has just six regular season games remaining.
Miami coach Jim Larranaga, whose team had dropped five of its last six league games, turned to his veterans to set the tone, inserting four seniors in the starting lineup. That decision elicited a response that left the Seminoles staring up out of a double-digit first half deficit for the fourth time in the last six games.
"From my point of view, that was the best game we've played at both ends of the floor," Larranaga said. "Everything we asked the players to do, they did. The end result was a total team effort."
And another frustrating setback for the Seminoles, who shot better from the floor, won the battle on the boards and points in the paint, but had nothing to show for their efforts.
"Miami came out and played hard from the jump ball," said Seminole sophomore guard Aaron Thomas. "I think we waited a couple minutes too late to pick it up. By that time they had already smacked us in the face. We were just not able to step our foot in the door and get all the way through it. There were spurts but it wasn't consistent."
It was a difficult night from the outset as Miami built a 13-5 lead by holding the Seminoles scoreless for a stretch of 5:32. FSU twice cut the lead to five before the Hurricanes countered with a 7-0 run for a 28-16 lead with 3:48 to play in the half.
Ian Miller, back in the lineup after a two-game absence with an ankle sprain, kept the Seminoles in the hunt with back-to-back 3 pointers and a late jumper as FSU finished on a 10-6 spurt and trailed 34-26 at the break. Miller had 11 of his 13 points in the first half.
After laboring offensively in the first half, the Seminoles got going in the second. Boris Bojanovksy punctuated a 16-6 run with a three-point play to pull FSU within 45-42 with 8:28 to play. Thomas, who finished with 16 points, countered a Davon Reed jumper with one of his own to make it 47-44, but the `Noles could get no closer.
The Seminoles also got scoring contributions from Devon Bookert (17 points) and Okaro White (14 points), but were unable to make headway on the deficit as seemingly every Miami the rest of the way ended with a basket or free throws as the shot clock wound down.
"[Miami] did a great job of making timely baskets," Hamilton said. "We were right there."
"One of things we do by slowing the game down is controlling the tempo," said UM's Garrius Adams; one of four Hurricanes in double figures with 12 points. "We try to share the ball as much as we can so we can have the shot clock [wind down] so we can get a good shot at the end of the shot clock. We did a good job of that."
Donnavan Kirk led the `Canes with 16 points. Center Tonye Jekiri had a career-high 15 points and Rion Brown added 14.
The Hurricanes opened up a nine-point lead during a five-minute stretch of fast-paced action before the Seminoles made a final charge. Bookert's 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining chipped the deficit to 65-61. Still trailing by four with 1:08 remaining, the Seminoles appeared to come up with a steal in a mad scramble for the ball on a Miami inbounds pass. The ball was knocked out of bounds and the officials used a review of the video to determine that it last touched Bookert.
Miami made three of its next four free throw attempts after two errant Montay Brandon shots and the `Canes sealed the victory at the line.
In the battle of tired teams looking to snap out of extended slides, Miami prevailed.
"We played nine guys and gave everybody some quality rest," Larranaga said. "We try to keep everybody fresh, but in the end you've got to gut it out. It's a grind and you've got to grind it out, particularly in February and March."
The Seminoles will have a few days to regroup before traveling to Wake Forest for Saturday's next encounter.
"We've been here before as a staff and as a team," Hamilton said. "This is part of the learning process. How do you handle adversity? This is when you learn and you grow."