Ian Miller helps Florida State pick up crucial win over Notre Dame

Florida State Seminoles forward Okaro White (10) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Eric Atkins, middle, and Florida State Seminoles guard Devon Bookert, bottom right, get a jump ball call in the second half.

Phil Sears/Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State had been in this position before, tied up or trailing late in the game the past few years.

The Seminoles could seemingly always call on Michael Snaer to rescue them, someone who could nail a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Six times the past two years, Snaer did it. With Snaer graduated and playing overseas, Florida State needed someone to step up.

Ian Miller drove the lane and into traffic, using a screen from center Boris Bojanovsky to make a running floater with four seconds left, giving Florida State a 76-74 win over Notre Dame on Tuesday night.

"You just have to be ready for that time, whenever that time comes," Miller said. "Stay calm and don’t panic. My team needed me to hit that shot. …

"If I had missed it, I would have been pissed."

He made it. But Miller lamented that he left too much time on the clock. Florida State couldn’t exhale until Eric Atkins’ 35-footer went off the rim.

Box score

"I was praying that it wouldn’t go in," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Thank goodness the clock was winding down. That Hail Mary at the end could have gone either way."

When asked by a reporter what he felt about Notre Dame traveling with a priest, who sat on the end of the team’s bench, and if divine intervention could have come into play, Hamilton quickly retorted, "I pay my tithes."

It was the ninth time in the past three seasons that Florida State won a game in the last 4.5 seconds. Six of them off shots by Snaer, and Devon Bookert made a 10-foot jumper to beat Northeastern in November. Miller has now made two game-winning shots, including a 3-pointer with .8 seconds left to give Florida State a 63-60 win at Virginia in March 2012.

On Tuesday, and despite the calendar still being squarely in January, Florida State needed a victory. The Seminoles are 13-5, 4-2 in the ACC and in the middle of what players call a cluster of teams behind No. 2 Syracuse (5-0). Pittsburgh and Virginia are each 5-1 and Clemson and Florida State are both 4-2.

It’s early to scoreboard watch, of course, but Florida State needs to keep stacking wins and continue to build its resume for March. And Tuesday’s game was a win that certainly helps the Seminoles down the stretch.

"It shows that we’ve matured," Miller said. "That we’re staying together and not splintering, that we have good coaches. It shows that we’re a good all-around team."

FSU escapes Notre Dame

Miller made 4 of 8 shots on the night, including two of Florida State’s eight 3-pointers. But none were bigger than what he was able to do in the closing seconds, helping the Seminoles avoid overtime on a night when they had led 41-28 with 2:41 to halftime.

Notre Dame made a run late in the first half, and the Irish eventually cut the lead to 63-57 on a tip in by Garrick Sherman. But on the Irish’s next trip down the court, Pat Connaughton was called for a charge in the lane. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey argued with the referees, lost his composure and was called for a technical. Florida State made both free throws and then pulled ahead 67-57 on Montay Brandon’s layup with 7:55 to go.

Atkins, who scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, made a 3-pointer and a layup in the final 3:21 to keep Notre Dame close. The Irish tied the game at 74 on Connaughton’s layup with 34 seconds left.

Florida State had one of its best offensive nights of the season, making 29 of 50 shots (58 percent) from the floor and knocking down 8 of 16 (50 percent) from beyond the arc.

But Notre Dame was still able to make a run, benefitting as Florida State lost its defensive focus in the second half. The Irish made 16 of 29 shots (55.2 percent) from the floor after halftime, yet fell just one shot short in the end.

Brey said his technical didn’t help things in a close game. And in the end, he said the Irish weren’t able to take the lead and put enough pressure on Florida State.

"That was a big shot right at the end there," Brey said. "And they made big shots throughout the game. They never let us really feel like we could close the gap or win it."

You can follow Bob Ferrante on Twitter @bobferrante or email him at bobferrante17@gmail.com.