Evans’ clutch play (again) lifts FSU past Clemson

RayQuan Evans late-game, clutch play rescued Florida State and ended a long losing streak.

Evans scored a career-high 28 points, making 12 of 13 free-throw attempts, and had 17 points in the second half of FSU’s 81-80 win over Clemson on Tuesday night. And as he had made plays in January wins over Duke and Miami at home, he saved another big sequence for Clemson.

The redshirt senior guard set up the half-court offense, then drove to the basket before pulling up for a jumper over Clemson’s Nick Honor with 14 seconds to go. He made the basket, was fouled and sank the free throw to put FSU in front 81-80.

Clemson set up for a final shot, but Alex Hemenway missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

FSU (14-11, 7-8 ACC) snapped a six-game losing streak and won for the seventh straight time against Clemson at the Donald L. Tucker Center. It was FSU’s first win since Jan. 22 at Miami.

“It says a lot about his character that he willed us to victory,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said of Evans. “He put us on his shoulders. And he made play after play. He was focused and he gave us great leadership tonight.”

Hamilton began his opening comments with the media by saying one of the team’s managers, Jared Lynn, has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and has gone back home to Cincinnati to begin treatment.

“One of our family members, to go through something like that is very hard,” Evans said. “I think that’s another reason why I played so hard. It kind of triggered emotions from my brother passing because of cancer. So I just wanted to dedicate this game to him. And I think everyone did as well and just played our heart out. … If we can play hard for basketball, this young man, he’s gonna fight for his life. So the least we can do is dedicate this game for him and play hard every night for him.”

Cam’Ron Fletcher added 12 of his career-best 17 points in the second half. He also had eight rebounds. Matthew Cleveland had 13 points for FSU.

Forward PJ Hall scored a career-high 28 points for Clemson (12-14, 4-11 ACC). It was the most points scored against an FSU opponent this season. The Tigers have dropped five straight games.

FSU again played without Malik Osborne (ankle), Anthony Polite (wrist) and Naheem McLeod (hand). Leading scorer Caleb Mills (foot) joined his teammates on the bench.

Clemson exposed a few of FSU’s flaws, notably rebounding. The Tigers outrebounded FSU 41-29, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points.

But FSU had just eight turnovers and the Seminoles shot 24 of 55 (43.6 percent) from the floor and 8 of 19 (42.1 percent) from 3-point range. The Seminoles also made free throws — 25 of 30 (83.3 percent).

And, at the end, FSU also had Evans. He made critical buckets throughout the game, shooting 7 of 13 from the floor in addition to a near-flawless night at the free-throw line. It continued his run of late-game antics in 2021-22, following up his two made free throws with 0.8 seconds to go against the Hurricanes and then made two free throws with 12 seconds left in overtime that helped FSU knock off Duke.

A few days after Hamilton was critical of FSU’s lack of energy at North Carolina, he liked the communication and aggressiveness on Tuesday.

“I thought our guys gave it everything that they had for 40 minutes,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t always play well. I thought our attitudes were good, our effort was good. We showed that we had a lot of pride and that we’re playing for something bigger than us, playing for our brother, who is fighting a dreaded disease, but also representing who we are and I challenged them tonight. 

“And I challenged them tonight that at the end of the game, I wanted them to be able to look themselves in the mirror and say they gave it all they had. For all those things that are important to us, other than what’s important to themselves. They had to play for something bigger than themselves. And I was very proud that we rose to the occasion.”

FSU – Clemson box score

The FSU – Clemson box score can be viewed here.

Up next: FSU at Duke

FSU will play at Duke on Saturday at 6 p.m. (ESPN)