Clemson’s normally good scoring defense arrived to the ACC tournament too late on Wednesday to help the Tigers advance.
Ninth-seeded Florida State (16-15) shot 71 percent from the field in the second half and survived a flurry of key errors in the final minutes to top the eighth-seeded Tigers 76-73 in the second round of the tournament.
“Just disappointed in the way we played in the second half,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We didn’t play very well. And I don’t think our competitive spirit was where it needed to be. (I am) certainly proud of the way our guys at the end fought. We played great in the last four minutes when our backs were against the wall and had two chances to tie and just a little bit unlucky.”
After trailing by as many as 20 points in the second half, the Tigers (16-15) played tough defense in the game’s final four minutes by forcing seven Seminoles turnovers and allowing just one field goal.
Never miss a local story.
Clemson narrowed the deficit to 74-71 with 31 seconds left after Florida State’s Phil Cofer slipped and fell onthe in-bounds play and Jaron Blossomgame collected the loose ball for a layup. Before that, Florida State earned a five-second violation that led to a Clemson 3-pointer.
“I thought we did a very poor job of throwing the ball close to the baseline,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I thought as the pressure got on, our guys cut slower as opposed to faster.
“We didn’t do a very good job of getting the ball deep on the out-of-bounds play, but you’ve got to give them credit. I thought they did a tremendous job of defending us.”
Florida State’s Montay Brandon then had the next in-bounds pass bounce off his face and out of bounds, but a floater by Clemson’s Rod Hall with 12 seconds left rolled off the rim.
“I wanted to put my team in a good position and win this game,” said Hall, a senior playing in his final ACC game. “The ball rolled the opposite way that I wanted it to.”
After a free throw put Florida State up by three with nine seconds left, freshman Gabe DeVoe’s 3-pointer missed the mark along with Blossomgame’s tip-in.
Ranked third in the ACC in scoring defense by allowing 61.7 points per game, Clemson (16-15) had no answer for freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes early on. Rathan-Mayes scored 30 points, marking the eighth time this year that he’s had at least 20 points.
“He’s done that against a bunch of teams in our league, and I guess it was our turn today,” Brownell said.
Clemson entered the game shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point range, so after the Seminoles built a comfortable second-half lead, Hamilton opted to play zone.
But Florida State seldom plays zone, and Clemson got hot by hitting three 3-pointers in the final 1 minute, 38 secodns to shrink the deficit to five points.
“It’s hard to hold onto a double-figure lead late,” Brownell said. “If one or two things go against you early in that situation and the other team builds any momentum, it’s tough. Our guys did a good job of fighting.”
The loss was the eighth in the past 10 ACC tournament games for the Tigers. Florida State will play No. 1 seeded Virginia at noon Thursday.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9