Jordan Pandy, Correspondent (@ on Twitter)
TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net) – Florida State beat rival Miami to secure their first unbeaten season at home since 1976. Dwayne Bacon made some clutch baskets near the end of the game to seal the deal and finished with a game-high 23 points.
The Seminoles (24-7, 12-6) had an 11-point lead with four minutes left in the game, but the Canes got the game tight in the final stretch. Some clutch free throws from Bacon, and some missed free throws from Miami (20-10, 10-8) helped the Seminoles secure the win.
“We made some shots and were obviously able to keep them at bay,” said Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton. “We hit some key free throws down the stretch. I thought Jarquez gave us good play. Obviously Dwayne came up big today.”
One of the bigger stories was Florida State going 18-0 at home this season. Hamilton spoke briefly on the undefeated season and what it means to the team.
“It means an awful lot to the seniors,” coach Hamilton. “They can say they participated on a team that made history. This will be a fond memory for them to have.”
It was senior night for the Seminoles and senior Jarquez Smith played well in his final game in Tallahassee. Smith finished with 11 points, shooting 50% from the field, and snatched five rebounds in the game. He also had a few high-energy plays that got the crowd on its feet including a put back dunk halfway through the second half to put the Noles up two possessions.
“I played a lot more aggressive knowing it was going to be my last time playing in the Tucker Center,” said Smith. “That was big motivation for me.”
Smith also talked about what it meant to have a game and a season like this to end his career.
“Like, the perfect ending,” said Smith. “The whole year we’ve been undefeated at home, and coach made it everyone else’s priority to send me and [Michael] Ojo off like legends on our last home game. I think it fired everybody else up, it fired me up, it fired Ojo up, and we just came out and got it done.”
Something different the Seminoles displayed tonight was a zone defense. In the first half, Miami was getting to basket easily and scored about a third of their points in the paint. Early in the second half, Hamilton decided to switch up the defense, and it worked for them, holding Miami to 32% shooting from the field in the second half.
“In the second half we decided to go to a seldom used zone to kind of protect the paint a little bit,” said Hamilton. “We also pressed a little bit to get some time off the clock and it really worked well for us towards the end.”
With the NCAA tournament around the corner, where Florida State has not played since 2012, the Seminoles may have a trick up their sleeve.
Speaking of tournaments, the ACC tournament starts this week. With this win and a Notre Dame loss, Florida State has secured their spot as a two seed going into the ACC tournament, which guarantees them a two-game bye.
Dwayne Bacon chimed in on the team’s positioning.
“It’s definitely something we believed could have done,” said Bacon. “I think that the polls picked us to be 10th or eighth in the league. It’s definitely something that we blocked out and just focused on us, and we made it happen.”
March Madness is something the Seminoles have not seen in a while. With the team’s performance this year they are a lock to make it to the tournament with a relatively high seed. The team is playing at a high level, but the Smith thinks they will play even better.
“I think we will,” said Smith. “We know it’s more at stake. We know if we lose one we go home, so I think everyone will come out and play their best.”
Florida State will rest up and watch the first couple of games of the ACC tournament next week and await their opponent. The Seminoles will play Thursday at 7pm.