It took a complete team effort, but a strong finish on Wednesday night propelled Florida State past Miami, 63-53, as the Seminoles began a five-game stretch that features four games on the road. Miami held a 51-50 lead at the final media timeout on Wednesday, but FSU had an answer.
That answer was a 13-0 run that included clutch free throws from Okaro White and Aaron Thomas, a long three-pointer from Ian Miller and an alley-oop pass from Miller to Boris Bojanovsky for a slam.
Florida State was efficient offensively on Wednesday and uncharacteristically careful with the basketball, but a barrage of three-pointers for Miami kept the Hurricanes within striking distance and for much of the second half, ahead. Triples accounted for 27 of Miami’s 53 points as guard Rion Brown and forward Donnavan Kirk each scored 21 and combined for 42 of Miami’s 53 points.
Nevertheless, the Seminoles managed to get the job done and playing well during this five-game span could prove huge come season’s end. While Wednesday’s victory was certainly hard-fought, FSU still has trips to Virginia and Duke upcoming.
Wednesday’s win over Miami also moved Florida State to 12-4 on the season and 3-1 in ACC play, keeping the ‘Noles within a game of ACC newcomers and conference leaders, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Since dropping the ACC opener at home to Virginia, FSU has won three straight and by a margin of greater than 16 points-per-game. The Seminoles are also now 2-0 on the road in conference after going just 1-2 in true road games prior to the start of ACC play.
Though the conference slate is only four games old and the regular season is just past the midway point, Florida State has the look of a NCAA Tournament team. If the Seminoles can find a way to win even one of their next three games on the road and beat Notre Dame at home, FSU will be 5-3 in conference play heading into February, which features a more favorable schedule.
Considering what’s upcoming, Wednesday’s victory was a big one for Florida State. Although Miami swept the season series from Florida State a year ago, the Seminoles have fared well against the Hurricanes over the past decade. FSU has not played as well on the road against its next two opponents away from the Donald L. Tucker Center, Virginia and Duke.
Florida State carries momentum into Charlottesville where its faces Virginia on Saturday. The Cavaliers handed FSU its only ACC loss less than two weeks ago and Virginia held Florida State to just 36 points — a low under head coach Leonard Hamilton — when the teams met at John Paul Jones Arena last January.
The Seminoles will then host Notre Dame before hitting Tobacco Road to face what could be two very desperate teams in Duke and N.C. State. All that said, the importance of Wednesday’s victory over Miami cannot be overstated. FSU got off on the right foot for a stretch that features four road contests in five games and if the Seminoles can continue to play well away from home, it could be smooth sailing to a fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in six years.