Exactly 39 minutes and 59.7 seconds into Saturday's Senior Day contest, Joey Moreau and Rafael Portuondo made their way onto the court for their final regular season game in Tallahassee.
Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton would no doubt have preferred to get the senior walk-ons into the game sooner, but Florida State's 71-67 victory over the North Carolina State Wolfpack wasn't in hand until Okaro White sank a free throw that stretched the lead to two possessions.
That free throw capped off a wild affair that featured nine lead changes, eight-point comebacks by each team and plenty of chippiness between the two.
“I think what we see is some youngsters growing up before our eyes,” Hamilton said. “We've thought all along that this team had pretty good potential. We're hoping that this will give us some confidence now as we prepare for the ACC tournament.”
A win over the Wolfpack, who have had a disappointing campaign but still feature some of the league's top talent, is a good way to enter the postseason.
FSU's victory ensures that the Seminoles will at the very least qualify for the National Invitation Tournament and, with a 9-9 record in league play, keeps them at .500 or better in the conference for the fifth consecutive season.
“I feel good that we can say 9-9 is an average season,” Hamilton said. “That's a compliment within itself, that we can say that. Because only a few years ago we were trying to get the program to .500 in the league. Now .500 in the league is below our standards.”
Snaer had a fine farewell, and he was joined by a junior who helped put the Seminoles over the top.
White contributed in just about every way imaginable – with eight points, two assists and nine rebounds, none more important than his tip-back after Aaron Thomas missed a late free throw that would've given FSU a three-point lead with 17 seconds to go.
In a bizarre sequence, Thomas made his first attempt, only to have it nullified after officials failed to notify N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried that Lorenzo Brown had fouled out.
After resetting the play, Thomas again made his first attempt to make it 68-66, but his second shot was short. But rather than giving the Wolfpack an opportunity to tie or take the lead, White got to the ball, realized he couldn't grab the ball with just one hand and tipped it back to Bookert.
Bookert was fouled and made both free throws.
“He was just a soldier out there,” Hamilton said of White. “Winning plays, no doubt about that. The tip, the stop, the rebound, the contests, the physicality. I thought he did a very good job.”
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