GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Michael Snaer hit four free throws in the final 22.4 seconds to help reigning champion Florida State hold off Clemson 73-69 on Thursday night in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Snaer finished with 10 points for the sixth-seeded Seminoles (18-14), who let a 14-point lead with 3 minutes left slip to a single bucket late. But Snaer’s last two free throws with 6.9 seconds showing made it a two-possession game and helped FSU hang on.
Okaro White scored a career-high 24 points for FSU, while Terrance Shannon added 12 — including six straight to spark a 14-3 second-half run that helped the Seminoles take control after trailing by 10 in the first half.
Florida State advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals to face third-seeded North Carolina.
Jordan Roper scored 18 to lead the 11th-seeded Tigers (13-18), who lost their seventh straight to close their worst season in nine years.
Clemson had posted seven straight winning seasons, but finished with its fewest victories since winning just 10 in 2004. Still, the Tigers nearly pulled off an improbable comeback.
The Tigers fought back to within 69-66 on Roper’s 3-pointer with 23.1 seconds left, but Snaer answered with two free throws to make it a two-possession game. Then Devin Booker hit another 3 to close the gap to 71-69 with 12.1 seconds left, only to see Snaer — who had four buzzer-beating baskets this year for wins — live up to his clutch reputation by calmly sinking two more foul shots.
The Seminoles swept the two regular-season meetings by a combined eight points, with the second coming Jan. 24 when Snaer banked in a 3-pointer at the horn. Florida State gained some momentum by closing the regular season with home wins against Virginia and North Carolina State, marking the first time the Seminoles had won consecutive games in two months.
Florida State got a boost with the play of Shannon, a 6-foot-8 forward who at one point was thought to be out for the season with a neck injury suffered in January. He returned two weeks ago and played 3 minutes at North Carolina, then sat out the next two games before coming up huge in this one.
With the game tied at 46, Shannon hit two free throws, then scored on a stickback and added two more free throws to give Florida State a 52-46 lead with 6:18 left. Then, after Devon Booker’s 3-pointer over Roper, White scored on a goaltending call inside and added a 3-pointer to give the Seminoles a 60-49 lead with 4 minutes left.