Florida State needed this one. While the phrase “must win” is entirely overused in sports, it nevertheless sometimes applies. And this was one of those times. The Seminoles, squarely on the bubble for a spot in the NCAA tournament, faced Maryland this afternoon and emerged with a 67-65 victory, increasing their odds of making the big dance after an absence last year.
FSU controlled the game for much of the first half (when it wasn’t being dominated by the overly involved officials), but Maryland rode the hot shooting of Seth Allen to a six-point advantage, which the ‘Noles reduced to just two to trail 34-32 at halftime. Both teams were careless with the ball in the early moments of the second stanza, and Florida State flourished amid the chaos, utilizing a 14-2 run to build an 11-point advantage with 9:37 remaining. Looking like the Seminoles were about to pull away, Maryland began pressing, which exposed FSU’s subpar ball-handling. In what wound up being their last ACC basketball game, the Terrapins played like a team with nothing to lose, while the ‘Noles tightened up and played quite protectively.
Maryland finally fought all the way back and tied thing up at 63 with just under two minutes left. The teams traded unimpressive possessions until Seminole Boris Bojanovsky was sent to the line with 36.2 seconds remaining. Bojanovsky had missed two free throws after absorbing a hard foul moments earlier, but he showed tremendous mental fortitude, coolly knocking down both shots to reclaim a 65-63 lead for FSU. The Terps regained a draw at the charity stripe after an ill-advised reaching foul sent UMD to the line. Leonard Hamilton declined an opportunity to set up an offensive play, and with seconds remaining, Ian Miller threaded a pass to Okaro White in the lane. As the Maryland defense collapsed in on White, he dropped a simple bounce pass to Bojanovsky on the baseline, who rose over two Terps and dunked with less than a second remaining. Maryland’s desperation heave was off the mark, and the ‘Noles celebrated a 67-65 triumph.
While Ian Miller and Aaron Thomas led the Seminoles’ scoring, with 17 and 14 points, respectively, Bojanovky was really the player of the game for Florida State. His 12 points and career-high 12 boards constitute his first collegiate double-double.
The mild upset goes a long way for FSU’s tourney chances. Before Florida State and Maryland had even tipped off, the ‘Noles had momentum. Due to the sundry interrelated circumstances of Championship Week that I discussed in an article yesterday, FSU improved from the sixth team out to the fourth team out without playing a game, according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s most recent projection. Although it’s not yet updated on the ESPN website, just before tip-off Lunardi advanced the Seminoles from second on his “Next Four Out” list to fourth on his “First Four Out” queue.
The Seminoles now advance to face top-seeded Virginia tomorrow at noon, in an ACC Tournament working out well for FSU. They’ll need to do a couple of things much better to have a chance. First, they’ve got to take care of the ball. They turned it over 19 times against Maryland, which won’t work against the Cavs. Also, they must make free throws– especially if the ACC refs are going to call games the way they called this one. 13-21 (61.9%) is simply atrocious. FSU is right on the bubble now. A victory tomorrow should punch their dance card.
Here’s a link to video of the exciting final sequence:
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