A week ago, Florida State was in position to win an ACC regular-season title before the mistakes added up with a road loss.
On Friday night, the Seminoles are in position to claim an ACC Tournament title despite making similar miscues before a partisan crowd.
Balsa Koprivica scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds — his second double-double of the season — and FSU’s defense kept North Carolina from scoring late in a 69-66 victory in an ACC Tournament semifinal at Greensboro, N.C.
“We did a very nice job getting the stops,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I think they might have scored one out of the last eight possessions. We were defending very well. Those long arms and contested shots were important down the stretch.”
Scottie Barnes added 11 points and five rebounds, while RaiQuan Gray had eight points and five rebounds. Barnes had two of FSU’s eight steals and Koprivica had four of FSU’s seven blocks.
“We knew that we needed to make big, key stops and we’re all just motivated and committed to making those stops as a team,” Barnes said. “We just knew what we needed to do defensively.”
FSU (16-5) will play Georgia Tech (16-8) in the championship game on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN). The Yellow Jackets defeated Miami in a semifinal on Thursday and advanced straight to the title game when Virginia had to back out due to COVID issues. FSU and GT split the regular-season series, with each team winning on its home court (the Seminoles in December and the Yellow Jackets in January).
Barnes’ 11 points and Malik Osborne’s nine points helped give FSU’s bench 29 points to UNC’s 18 points for reserves. Osborne made three 3s in the first half, including a step-back buzzer-beater that had FSU up 35-24 at the half.
The Tar Heels were flat early but brought much more energy in the second half — similar to the game a few weeks ago at Chapel Hill, N.C. UNC shot 15 of 38 (39.5 percent) from the floor in the second half but was cold from the floor down the stretch. Leaky Black’s layup with three seconds to go was the Tar Heels’ only points in the final three minutes, 15 seconds.
Caleb Love had 13 points and Armando Bacot added 12 points for UNC (18-10).
The Seminoles had just 11 assists and overcame 18 turnovers, including eight in the second half (four by M.J. Walker).
FSU has struggled away from home with three common factors: turnovers, poor 3-point shooting and rebounding margin. The Seminoles held their own on the boards against the physical Tar Heels on Saturday, as UNC’s edge was just 42-39. UNC did have 21 offensive rebounds but those resulted in just 18 second-chance points.
“They got 21 offensive rebounds tonight,” Hamilton said. “Thank God they didn’t get 22. This is a very challenging team to keep off the boards.”
While FSU shot 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) from the floor, the Seminoles were reluctant early to take 3-pointers although they finished 5 of 13 (38.5 percent). FSU was 16 of 22 (72.7 percent) from the free-throw line.
The FSU-UNC box score can be viewed here.
Talk about this story on the Osceola’s message board