FSU looks to ACC tourney after victory

Coach Leonard Hamilton said he is expecting a tough ACC tournament for FSU. Photo by St. Clair Murrain

Coach Leonard Hamilton said he is expecting a tough ACC tournament for FSU.
Photo by St. Clair Murrain

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook writer

Jim Boeheim flatly refused to answer the question about what losing to Florida State says about his Syracuse men’s basketball team going into this week’s ACC Tournament.
“No,” he said when asked his opinion, his frustration over the Orange’s 78-73 loss clearly obvious.
Leonard Hamilton was more matter-of-fact, following the win that turned into Makil Beasley’s personal showcase at the Civic Center this past Saturday.
“We don’t have it twisted,” said Hamilton. “We understand we have to play our way in. That’s the challenge we are looking forward to. Every team you play in the ACC, regardless who it is or where they are ranked in standings, will be a tough opponent.”
FSU (18-12, 8-10) went into the tournament as the 11th seed against 14th-seed Boston College, a matchup that the Seminoles were favor to win. The eagles (7-24) entered the game winless in 18 conference games, while FSU won its last two games.
Early on against the Orange, the Seminoles seemed as if they were backsliding to their lack of offensive production that resulted in five straight losses before beating Notre Dame and Syracuse in their last two games at home. FSU went into the locker room down 35-31 at halftime.
Their five starters, with the exception of a layup by Malik Beasley, were held scoreless. Syracuse’s starters combined for 23 first-half points.
Everything seemed to be playing out almost the way the Orange beat FSU in their first meeting three weeks earlier. Except for Beasley who scored just three points in Syracuse.
He nailed three consecutive 3-pointers to start the second half, giving FSU the lead (40-38), which it never relinquished.
“It was a huge confidence boost for the team,” said Beasley, who had his way against the Orange’s zone defense in the second half and finished with 20 points. “It gave us momentum.”
That completed a FSU comeback from a deficit that was as huge as seven points in the first half.
Hamilton said he saw it coming.
“You could have seen the poise, the confidence and the way they communicated with each other,” he said. “It showed we all were on the same page as opposed to sometimes feeling sorry for the mistake you made; they are going on to the next play.”
All Syracuse could do was force two ties in the second half, the last time at 55-all on a trey by Trevor Cooney with 9:22 to play.
The Seminoles needed all that they got from Beasley, especially with senior Devin Bookert and Boris Bojanovsky not having their best night offensively. They were relentless on defense, though, with Bojanovsky taking down four rebounds on each ends of the floor, with two blocks.
“They did not allow their lack of offensive productivity to affect the energy,” Hamilton said. “They kept playing. That’s what seniors are supposed to do.”
The Orange had one last chance to tie it with 16 seconds, but Cooney couldn’t get his 3-point attempt to fall.
Terrance Mann took the rebound, dished it off to Xavier Rathan-Mayes for the last FSU field goal.
All that’s left for FSU to get back into the NCAA tournament conversation is a deep run in the ACC tournament or win the title outright.
The momentum they’ve found during their two-game win streak couldn’t have come at a better time, said Bookert.
“It means everything,” he said. “I think that will give us some momentum going into the ACC tournament.”