Florida State dug quite the hole for itself, falling behind by 17 points early.
But the Seminoles also had plenty in the tank to claw out of that massive deficit.
Patrick Williams and M.J. Walker each scored 18 points and Florida State rallied to slip past Western Carolina 79-74 on Friday in the Seminoles’ home opener.
“Showing resiliency,” senior Trent Forrest said. “Young guys getting the chance to play in that moment was big for us.”
And there were none bigger than Williams, a 6-foot-8 forward who shot 5 of 8 from the floor and was 7 of 7 from the free-throw line to help the Seminoles come back.
“Pat is obviously becoming more and more comfortable,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He had the composure to go to the free-throw line and go 7 for 7. Each one of those free throws, we needed. He’s maturing and he’s adjusting to playing at this particular level.”
Forrest had 16 points for the Seminoles (2-1), who trailed 41-24 with 3:41 to halftime. Florida State gradually chipped away at the lead, going ahead for good with 45 seconds left in the second half as Williams made a layup.
Mason Faulkner scored 21 points, including 12 in the first half, as WCU (2-2) took a commanding early lead. The Catamounts made 7 of 14 three-pointers in the first half but cooled off and was just 2 of 9 in the second half.
As they missed shots, the Seminoles were able to push the ball up the court and find high-percentage shots.
“They really, really, really started to play faster in the second half,” WCU coach Mark Prosser said. “They transitioned from defense to offense quicker and took advantage of us in that way. They really attacked the paint and they got downhill.”
Kameron Gibson scored 15 points and Carlos Dotson added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Catamounts, but they lost control of the lead down the stretch.
After Williams made a pair of free-throw attempts to give Florida State a 77-74 lead, Faulkner missed a long jumper with three seconds left as he hoped to make the shot and draw the foul in an attempt to tie it up and send the game to overtime.
WCU had not beaten an ACC school since a 79-69 victory over Florida State on Dec. 8, 2001 in Tallahassee. That was the last season for the Seminoles under Steve Robinson, before Hamilton was hired as coach.
Devin Vassell scored 10 points for Florida State, which shot 25 of 55 (45.5 percent) from the floor. The Seminoles were only 10 of 26 (38.5 percent) from the floor in the first half but bounced back to shoot 15 of 29 (51.7 percent) in the second half.
Malik Osborne had six points and a team-leading nine rebounds.
WCU made 7 of 14 three-pointers in the first half but cooled off and was just 2 of 9 in the second half. The Catamounts shot 27 of 60 (45 percent) from the floor.
“Their shooting in the first half was tremendous. I thought we lacked discipline defensively,” Hamilton said.
TUCK TALKING POINTS
- When Florida State found themselves in the middle of a dog fight with the Catamounts, blue-chip freshman Patrick Williams came to life. Not only did Williams flash his skill from all three levels of the court, he showed confidence in getting to the rim and using his athleticism to make things happen. Numerous times he drove hard to the bucket in the final five minutes when FSU and WCU were trading baskets. He at one time scored nine points in a row to help the Seminoles take the lead and keep it. What stood out most, though, was Williams’ guts to take important free throws to extend the FSU lead to three late. His teammates were yelling at him to give them the ball, but he wanted to be fouled and take those shots. He buried both. In the end he was a perfect 7 of 7 from the charity stripe. A big 18-point, four-rebound stat line in a game FSU could not drop at home for its resume. – Ariya Massoudi
- Defensive lapses were a commonplace in this one, especially in the first half. After two extremely impressive performances on that side of the ball, the Seminoles seemed to sleep walk a little out of the gate against the Catamounts. Dribble penetration was far too easy for the visitors and it led to kick outs for open threes, that WCU made 7 of 14 of in the first half. Yes, Mason Faulkner is a fantastic player and will carve up SoCon defenses this season, but at times the hedges and recovery rotations were far too slow as WCU also had a nice half finishing at the rim. The second half was much better from FSU, who switched more and prevented certain drives. It led to more deflections, and the Catamounts hit just 2 of 9 from deep with better closeouts from the Seminole defense as well. In the end, the second half effort is what saved FSU. – Ariya Massoudi
- Florida State won its home opener, securing a 34th straight non-conference victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The Seminoles haven’t lost at home since Dec. 6, 2014. And FSU is 50-3 at home since the tail end of the 2015-16 season, including a 15-1 mark in Tallahassee last season. FSU was one of the last of the major college basketball teams to be playing at home following the road loss to Pittsburgh and then a win at Florida on Sunday. – Bob Ferrante
FSU starters: Forrest, Walker, Vassell, Gray and Osborne.
Concerning stat: FSU had just 10 assists and 14 turnovers.
Notes: Junior-college point guard RayQuan Evans made his FSU debut, coming off the bench in the first half. Evans played three minutes and had no points. … The Seminoles used 11 players.