TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — If there’s one thing that can be said about this Florida State basketball team, it’s the Seminoles know how to battle back.
Losses seem to bring out the best in Florida State.
And after a flat-as-a-pancake loss on Wednesday to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s worst team, Boston College, FSU’s veteran lineup showed its passion and energy on Saturday during a second-half surge that held off Miami.
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Bernard James scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Ian Miller scored all 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes as the Seminoles grabbed a 64-59 victory over the Hurricanes.
“We knew it was going to be a battle today, and it was,” said James, a senior who tied his career high in scoring. “It’s good to get our momentum going again. We didn’t need two losses in a row.”
Florida State (17-7, 8-2 ACC) keeps pace with North Carolina and Duke at the top of the conference standings with a little more than three weeks left in the regular season.
Kenny Kadji had 14 points for Miami (15-8, 6-4), which saw its program-best five-game ACC win streak halted.
“This was a tremendous challenge for us,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We have to prepare ourselves for this type of game every night. We are at the point now where we are trying to maintain where we are, and people are trying to move up the ladder.
“This is an adjustment that we have to make from being in the position that we are in, knowing that we are going to get everyone’s best shot. Everyone is playing for their postseason lives.”
Florida State’s resume of course is sparkling with the seven straight ACC wins, including upsets of North Carolina and Duke. But it also has dings and dents courtesy of losses to Princeton, Clemson and BC.
Seminoles players admitted that they took BC for granted, and in the days after the loss they again found the motivation from defeat to come back on Saturday and fight off Miami in what was a physical game from the start.
“I thought we bounced back today,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully we can be more consistent as we move through the rest of our season.”
Florida State took a 50-40 lead with 7:31 left after a Miller 3-pointer, but Miami was able to trim the lead down to just three, 60-57, after Kadji made a layup and then a free throw with 31 seconds left.
The Seminoles held on by making four of six free-throw attempts in the final 30 seconds to secure the win.
And with the win, Florida State continues what has been a lop-sided series between the two state rivals. The Seminoles are 11-1 against the Hurricanes since the 2005-06 season.
“It’s one of those games that came down to the wire,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “They were just a little big better than us in that one stretch (in the second half).”
One of the big differences was the inside play of James. Florida State’s senior forward made seven of eight second-half shots and had six rebounds and four blocks.
But James also kept Miami’s Reggie Johnson off-balance. The 6-foot-10, 280-pound Johnson scored 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in the upset of Duke. On Saturday, James held Johnson to just four points and six rebounds.
“He’s a man out there,” Larranaga said of James. “He’s strong. He’s very much emotionally in control. He doesn’t seem to get flustered by anything.”
Florida State has at times been flustered this season. But what the Seminoles have shown the past few months is their ability to pull themselves off the deck, brush off the loss and get a crucial ACC win.