An unexpected opportunity, a glimmer of hope and a promising start all went by the wayside Friday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.
After flirting with an upset of North Carolina for much of the first half, Florida State fell apart going into the break and continued to stumble in the second half of an 83-62 defeat in the ACC tournament quarterfinals.
A win would've meant a semifinal matchup Saturday with Maryland, which stunned No. 2 Duke earlier in the day. FSU went 2-0 against Maryland this season, but fell to 0-3 against the Tar Heels.
“The best team tonight won,” Hamilton said. “They outplayed us.”
Greensboro native P.J. Hairston scored 21 points and made five 3-pointers that allowed North Carolina to pull away after a mostly even first half.
Neither team led by more than five points for the game's first 17-plus minutes. The Seminoles actually rallied from a 19-14 deficit midway through the first half to take a 22-21 lead with 7:38 to go in the first half.
FSU then missed several opportunities to extend its lead. Missed free throws, missed jumpers and turnovers kept things close and, eventually, the Tar Heels made the Seminoles pay.
After Okaro White's jump shot provided the one-point lead, FSU didn't make another field goal for eight minutes and 30 seconds – when Aaron Thomas scored with 50 seconds to go in the half.
And while the Seminoles sputtered, UNC found its rhythm. The Tar Heels went on a 12-3 run that featured two 3s from Hairston.
“We had that period in the first half where I think we might have been down two and we missed two lay-ups, a three, turned the ball over, and (missed) four free throws,” Hamilton said. “They hit two threes and a lay-up off the turnover. Now it is a 10-point game. We dug that hole for ourselves and we could never get back out of it.”
FSU trimmed its deficit to four points early in the second half, but UNC then pulled away and broke the game open with a 13-0 run that energized the pro-Carolina crowd and put any thoughts of an upset to rest.
Playing in his final game against ACC competition Michael Snaer scored a team-high 20 points and added seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. No other Seminole reached double figures – Devon Bookert scored nine; Kiel Turpin and Aaron Thomas each added eight.
“Once we got behind they played with a lot more confidence and we were somewhat anxious,” Hamilton said.
Their loss ensures that the Seminoles will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in five seasons and are likely headed to the National Invitation Tournament, which begins next week.
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