Clemson dug itself a deep first half hole and never could climb all the way out as the Tigers fell to Florida State 71-66 Saturday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum in the ACC opener for both teams. The Seminoles, coming off an ACC Tournament Championship last season, have now won 15 of their last 20 ACC regular season games. The win is just Florida State’s second in its last 13 games at Littlejohn.
Clemson trailed by 16 in the early moments of the second half after a three pointer by Michael Snaer. But the Tigers turned up the defensive pressure and started making some threes of their own, and they gradually worked their way back into the game.
A three pointer by Jordan Roper moved them to within three with 6:40 to play. Roper hit another three two minutes later to again make it a three point game. After an exchange of two point baskets, Michael Snaer nailed a three for FSU to extend the lead to six with 3:11 left. A free throw by KJ McDaniesl and a Devin Booker layup made it a three point game again at 65-62 with 2:12 to play.
It stayed that way until Adonis Filer was called for a personal foul and FSU’s Devon Bookert for an intentional foul on same play with 37.9 seconds left. Each hit one foul shot to keep it a three point game.
At this point, Clemson came unglued. McDaniels missed a layup on the ensuing possession but the Tigers retained possession out of bounds. However, on the inbounds attempt, Rod Hall’s pass for Milton Jennings was intercepted by Okaro White who was quickly fouled. He hit two free throws for a 68-63 lead.
Ian Miller then stole the ball from Jennings in the backcourt and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 for a 69-63 lead with :14 to play. Jennings nailed a desperation three with :06 left to make it a three point game again. But with :03 left, Terrance Shannon canned a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
“It was a frustrating loss for us tonight,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell. “I don’t know why but we have gotten off to a slow start at home in some of these games and it has really cost us. Give Florida State credit. They came in and made shots in the first half and shot better than they normally shoot.”
Free throw shooting was a big difference in the game. Clemson made only 18 of 30 attempts. In particular, Devin Booker missed the front end of two one and one opportunities and missed another free throw after a basket during the Tigers’ late second half run.
Booker still led Clemson with 19 points and 11 rebounds. McDaniels added 15 and Jordan Roper had 11 points off the bench.
Clemson clamped on Snaer, FSU’s leading scorer, holding him to eight points, half his average. White led the Seminoles with 15 points including three three pointers. Terry Whisnant also canned a trio of threes and had 11 points as did Shannon.
The Tigers fall to 8-5 and will play Tuesday night at Duke. Florida State is 9-5 and will play at Maryland Wednesday night.