The Florida State Seminoles dropped a 67-64 overtime contest to the Minnesota Golden Gophers Tuesday in the NIT semifinals, ending FSU’s season. The game was a rematch of a December 3rd contest won by Minnesota.
Just as they did in the regular-season matchup, the Gophers started hot from the outside, making their first four shots from long range. They established a lead of 11-4 and forced a Seminole timeout just three minutes in. The ‘Noles were once again sloppy with the ball against a Minnesota press and zone, committing four turnovers in the game’s first five minutes, and FSU trailed 15-6 at the first media timeout.
Florida State trimmed the deficit to 17-10 with 11:25 left in the first half, although the game lacked much rhythm. But the Gophers’ hot sniping continued, as they began 7-10 from beyond the arc and forged a 26-13 lead at the 7:26 mark. The Seminole defense tightened up, however, and the first half ended somewhat mercifully for the ‘Noles, as they trailed just 30-20 at the break.
FSU’s first-half struggles were largely a result of two shortcomings: a 1-9 start from downtown and, in what has been a theme all year, turnovers. Florida State turned the ball over 11 times in the first stanza.
The Seminoles started much better in the second half, taking the ball to the rim and forcing some chaotic play on the Gophers’ behalf while cutting the gap to 34-29 with 15:59 remaining. Montay Brandon played particularly well, driving aggressively, bringing the ‘Noles to within four, and prompting a Minnesota timeout with 15 minutes left.
Florida State got into the bonus with 13 minutes to go, and senior Ian Miller provided the first real spark for FSU, nailing back-to-back threes to trim the Gopher lead to 40-39 with a little over 12 minutes to play. The bonus paid massive dividends for the Seminoles, as Thomas tied the score at 45 from the charity stripe.
Okaro White went to the line with 4:10 left and the score 50-49, Minnesota. He sank both shots, giving FSU its first lead at 51-50. The ‘Noles were unable to shut down the lane late, however, and Minnesota regained its lead. Aaron Thomas had a shot to tie the game with a little over 30 seconds left, but his triple bounced off the heel, and FSU had to resort to fouling thereafter.
With a 60-57 lead, Gopher Malik Smith missed two free throws with seconds left, and the ‘Noles had one shot. Devon Bookert delivered, nailing a top-of-the-arc three with 0.3 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
But FSU was unable to capitalize on the momentum, as it registered just one field goal in overtime. Minnesota didn’t shoot much better, but their possessions were cleaner, and they garnered more free throw attempts.
The Gophers’ Maurice Walker made two free throws to give Minnesota a 63-61 lead, and two more with 16.7 left to extend the margin to 65-61. Bookert went to the line courtesy of a bad Gopher foul with 12.1 left, but he made just one of two.
Walker, up 65-62, also split a pair at the line, taking the score to 66-62, and Bookert hit Miller for a reverse baseline layup to make it 66-64 with 6.1 left. A dead-ball foul sent Andre Miller to the line, and he missed the front end while making the back, bringing the tally to 67-64, Gophers. Ian Miller’s buzzer-beater to knot things up missed, and Minnesota escaped.
In their last games as ‘Noles, Miller and White led the attack for Florida State with 16 points each. White also led FSU with 12 boards. Aaron Thomas, who’s averaged 23 points per game for the Seminoles in the NIT, notched just three points and fouled out. The Gophers advance to play SMU for the NIT Championship.