Florida State can’t hold off No. 7 Syracuse in second half, fall in home finale
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State desperately needed another signature win to improve its resume and impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.
The Seminoles were unable to do so in a 74-58 loss to No. 7 Syracuse on Sunday in the regular season finale.
Florida State got a big game from senior Okaro White, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough. The Seminoles (18-12, 9-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) likely need to make serious noise in the ACC tournament to play their way into the field of 68.
Florida State trailed by one point with 12:38 left in the second half, but Syracuse ran away down the stretch.
"They lost four out of their last five, so, obviously, we knew we were going to get their best shot," senior guard Ian Miller said. "We just have to learn a way to do what we do regardless of what kind of deal the other team’s got going on.
"We still showed we can play with anybody. This ACC tournament is going to get real tricky, I think. If we can go up there and make a special run and still make some noise and get where we’ve got to go."
White posted his fifth double-double of the season and Miller finished with 16 points while Aaron Thomas chipped in 14.
The Seminoles struggled to score against Syracuse’s zone and were not physical enough to match the Orange inside. The Orange finished with a 43-24 advantage on the glass.
"Their zone was pretty good today," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It was a challenge for our guys to execute the things we had in their game plan because they kept making adjustments, and that’s what their defense does to you."
C.J. Fair scored 15 of his 22 points after halftime and led Syracuse (27-4, 14-4) to victory after Florida State hung around throughout the first half.
"We saw right away he got it going," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "He had the hot hand. When he gets it, we’re going to get him the ball.
"This was his best offensive game probably since Duke."
The Orange, who ended a two-game losing streak, had lost 4 of 5 — including two to sub-.500 teams — after starting the season 25-0. They had been ranked No. 1 for three weeks and No. 2 for the previous eight weeks before the losses started piling up.
"It was huge for us to get this," Boeheim said. "Last year we went through this and we had lost (three) and went to Georgetown to try to get momentum back and got beat by 35.
"We’ve struggled to score. We scored the ball. Did a good job on the boards and our defense was good. … Momentum can be a funny thing. We turned it around last year in one game. You can do that and this will help us."
Jerami Grant, who had been bothered by back problems recently, had 16 points and eight rebounds while Tyler Ennis finished with 16 points for Syracuse.
"I’m definitely feeling a lot better," Grant said. "I was able to come out and help my team however they needed me to help today. I think that definitely helped us get the victory today."
Boeheim said, "We’re a completely different team with Jerami Grant. If he wasn’t able to go tonight, we wouldn’t be very happy right now. He’s key to what we do."
Syracuse ran away from the Seminoles in the second half behind Fair and two big baskets from Trevor Cooney.
A 6-0 Florida State run cut the lead to 47-46, but the Orange answered with a burst that put the game away. Miller forced a bad 3-point attempt and Cooney responded with his first 3-pointer of the game on the following possession. Cooney buried another after a defensive stop and Syracuse went on to an 18-6 run that extended the lead to 65-52. The Florida State offense didn’t have enough juice against the Syracuse zone to make another run.
The Orange outshot the Seminoles 48.3 percent to 38.0 percent.
Syracuse will be the No. 2 seed when the ACC tournament begins March 14 in Greensboro, N.C.