TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Bernard James got off to a miserable start. He made up for it with a terrific finish.
James scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and No. 15 Florida State remained in the hunt for its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 64-59 victory over Miami on Saturday.
“He’s a cool customer,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said of the 6-foot-10 James. “When we start executing better, it makes it easier for him.”
Article continues below ...
James, who is shooting 60 percent from the floor this season, missed four of his five attempts in the first half. But he went 7 for 8 from the field after the break and matched his career-high point total as the Seminoles ended Miami’s longest win streak in ACC play at five.
Michael Snaer had 12 points and Ian Miller finished with 11 for Florida State (17-7, 8-2), which bounced back from a disappointing 64-60 loss at Boston College on Wednesday.
The Seminoles, who began the day tied with Duke and North Carolina for first place in the league, have conference wins over the Tar Heels and Blue Devils among their league wins while their only ACC losses came at Clemson and Boston College.
“Hopefully we can be more consistent as we move through the rest of our season,” Hamilton said. “We bounced back today.”
Hamilton made some changes at halftime to try and give James a bit more operating room inside.
“We had a difficult time getting him going because of the defensive job that Reggie Johnson was doing,” Hamilton said. “His massive body throws you off. You end up bouncing off of him.”
It paid off in a couple of ways, with the 6-10, 285-pound Johnson wearing down and playing just 11 minutes in the second half. He finished with four points a week after scoring 27 points to lead the Hurricanes to a 78-74 overtime win at Duke.
James and 6-11 Xavier Gibson were just 3 of 10 down low in the first half. Snaer, who is Florida State’s leading scorer on the season, had 10 of the Seminoles’ first 21 points Saturday and managed just one more field goal in the final 27 minutes of the game.
James’ layup with 16:32 left gave the Seminoles a 32-31 lead. They never trailed again.
“We were not able to prevent those baskets right near the hoop,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “He (James) was able to take his time inside and finish some tough shots. He doesn’t get flustered by anything.”
Miami, down by 10 on two occasions in the second half, closed to 60-57 with 31 seconds left when Kenny Kadji converted a three-point play.
Kadji led Miami (15-8, 6-4) with 14 points and Durand Scott added 12.
Miller hit three crucial free throws in the final 50 seconds and Okaro White sank two more with just 2 seconds left to ice the win.
“It’s good to get our momentum going again,” James said. “We didn’t need two losses in a row.”
Florida State had won seven straight before the setback at Boston College.
The Seminoles shot 46 percent to Miami’s 39.3 percent. Miami had a 35-29 rebound advantage and both teams committed 15 turnovers.
Former high school quarterback Luke Loucks had five of his six assists in the second half, several on quick passes inside to James.
Florida State, which led 28-26 at halftime, has won six straight games and 11 of the last 12 in the series. The teams will meet again in Miami on Feb. 26.
Miami hosts North Carolina on Wednesday and Florida State faces Virginia Tech at home on Thursday.
At halftime, Florida State retired the jersey of Dave Fedor, who averaged 20.2 points a game during his college career between 1960 and 1962 and was the school’s first player selected in the NBA draft.