TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Miami Hurricanes are NCAA Tournament bound but after stringing together several big wins, they didn’t close out the season in a strong way.
Saturday ended up being a pretty darn good day all around for No. 15 Florida State though.
Hours after No. 8 Louisville beat No. 19 Notre Dame, the Seminoles capped a perfect 18-0 record at home — in front of a sellout crowd on Senior Day — by beating No. 25 Miami 66-57.
The loss by the Fighting Irish and the win by Florida State — thanks to a game-high 23 points from guard Dwayne Bacon — also secured the No. 2 in next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The No. 2 seeding means Florida State gets a double-bye in the ACC Tournament — being held for the first time this year in Brooklyn, N.Y. — and the Seminoles (24-7, 12-6) will have five days off before opening play Thursday against an opponent to be determined.
The No. 2 seed also ties the highest ACC Tournament seeding in program history with the 1991-92 team, and the undefeated record at the Donald L. Tucker Center is the school’s first since the 1975-76 season.
“It’s like the perfect ending,” said senior forward Jarquez Smith, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds in his final home game in a Seminoles’ uniform. “This year, we’ve been undefeated at home, and that fired us up and we came out and got it done.”
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton didn’t want to talk about the possibility of finishing undefeated at home two weeks ago when asked about it following the Seminoles’ last home win against Boston College.
But he was glad to discuss it after Saturday’s season sweep of the rival Hurricanes.
“I’m really excited for them because it’s a tremendous accomplishment,” said Hamilton, whose program has actually won 21 straight games at home dating back to last season. “It’s significant for our program. It also gives our younger guys something to look up to when they return next year.”
Miami, meanwhile, fell to the No. 8 tourney seed with the loss and will now open Wednesday against No. 9 seed Syracuse.
The Hurricanes (20-10, 10-8) also lost their second straight game and have cooled off at the wrong time after going 6-2 since a Feb. 1 defeat to the Seminoles in Coral Gables. Miami was led by star guard Davon Reed’s 22 points and six rebounds Saturday, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome Florida State.
“Looks like we’re going to play Syracuse, so we’ll spend a good bit of time playing against the zone — and that gave us trouble today against Florida State. They had 17 points off (13 turnovers) and that was the difference in the game,” Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said. “We just need to be ready to go at noon on Wednesday. I want our players to go there with a great deal of confidence and play the best we can play.”
The Hurricanes continued the tradition of not faring well against the Seminoles in Tallahassee, where Miami is now 8-29 all-time in the rivalry series, which began in 1950 and spans 79 games.
Unlike the two teams’ first meeting this year — which saw the Seminoles stage a huge second-half comeback and win 75-57 after falling behind at halftime — Game 2 was tight throughout until late in the second half.
Florida State led just 46-40 with 11 minutes left, but the Seminoles stretched the lead to 54-46 with just over seven minutes remaining on a deep 3-pointer by Bacon as the shot clock struck zero — bringing the sellout Tucker Center crowd to its feet.
The Hurricanes turned the ball over on their next possession, and the Seminoles were able to hold off the Hurricanes the rest of the way.
Along with Smith, the Seminoles also said goodbye Saturday to fellow senior Michael Ojo, the team’s 7-foot-1 center from Nigeria. Smith entered the game eighth in school history for career blocked shots with 122 and ninth in school history with 131 career games played, while Ojo has blocked 74 career shots in 127 career games and was the team’s only fifth-year senior.
Ojo didn’t score in Saturday’s win, but he corralled a huge rebound with the Seminoles up 59-54 with under a minute to play on a missed front-end of a 1-and-1 by forward Kamari Murphy.
Reed said the Hurricanes can’t dwell on the loss even for second and have to find a way to regain their February form before Wednesday’s tournament opener.
“They’re a very good team and we’re a very good team, and we’ve been in these close-game situations and had been doing pretty well … until recently, that is,” said Reed, referencing Miami’s back-to-back losses to close the regular season. “We’re going to try to get back, try to get rested a little bit and prepare for our next opponent. This is a league full of great teams, and we’ve been playing well, we just got to get back on track. The league is up and down and can go either way.
“We were near the top a couple of days ago, and now with a couple of loss, we’re back in the middle of the pack. We just need to be ready to play and do our best to advance (in the ACC Tournament).”
Florida State guard Terance Mann led the Seminoles with six rebounds in the win. The Seminoles outrebounded Miami 34-27.
Miami also got a solid game from guard Bruce Brown with 10 points, but no other Hurricanes players finished in double figures. Murphy led Miami with nine rebounds.
The Hurricanes lost despite shooting 8 of 17 from beyond the arc, while the Seminoles won despite shooting a dismal 4 of 19 from 3-point range.
The Seminoles, who led 37-34 after the first half, shot out to an 11-5 lead in the first five minutes of the game. But Miami roared back and outscored the Seminoles 19-10 over the next seven minutes to pull ahead 24-21 with 7:50 remaining before intermission.
But Florida State went on its own spurt after that with a 15-4 run, surging to a 35-28 advantage with just under four minutes left in the first half.
Miami closed by outscoring Florida State 6-2 to narrow the gap to just a three-point Seminoles advantage at the break.
Bacon and Reed both led all scorers at the half with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Bacon, a sophomore, may also have played his final game in a Seminoles’ uniform at home Saturday. Bacon is expected to declare for the NBA draft after this season and be a first-round selection.
The Seminoles’ leading scorer, however, didn’t want to discuss his future after the game.
“I don’t know, man. As far as right now, I’m just worried about getting in the (NCAA) Tournament,” Bacon said. “Right now, we’re just focused on that.”
NOTES: Florida State’s 18-0 home record was the best of any team in college basketball this season … The full ACC Tournament seeding and matchups will be announced by the conference following the Duke-North Carolina game late Saturday night. …The Seminoles now lead the all-time series against rival Miami 44-35, and they’ve swept the series five times since the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2005 … Florida State freshman guard Trent Forrest, who earned a 3.0 grade point average during his first semester as a collegiate student-athlete, was named to the All-ACC Academic Men’s Basketball team as announced by ACC Commissioner John Swofford. He was one of just eight freshmen named to the 26-member team … Miami guard Bruce Brown, who earned the ACC Freshman of the Week award Monday, was also named the ACC All-Academic team this week … Florida State’s other undefeated home seasons came during the 1954-55, 1955-56, 1969-70, 1973-74 and 1975-76 seasons … Coming into Saturday, Miami had seven of the last 11 meetings against Florida State.
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