A 71-60 loss to N.C. State is the Seminoles' 14th in a row in an ACC road game.
By KEVIN BRAFFORD
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Give the Florida State Seminoles this when they wear anything but white: They're consistent.
Losers, that is. For the 14th consecutive time on the road against an Atlantic Coast Conference rival, FSU came away on the short end, this time to North Carolina State 71-60 Tuesday night.
The 'Noles' last league victory outside Tallahassee came March 3, 2001, 75-63 at Clemson. On this night, FSU (12-11, 3-9) never led and, truthfully, rarely threatened in losing its ninth straight in this series.
The Wolfpack (14-8, 7-4) is fighting for its NCAA Tournament life, and it looked the part. Continually frustrating the 'Noles with offensive patience and an array of backdoor cuts, N.C. State frequently milked the shot clock to single digits, then broke the FSU defense down for layup after layup.
For all its defensive woes -- the 'Noles allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 51 percent -- FSU still trailed only 58-50 with less than six minutes to go. Five times the 'Noles came downcourt facing that deficit. Five times they came away empty.
"We charged once, we walked once, we fumbled one away and we missed layups," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "You're not going to beat a good ACC team on the road when you blow that many opportunities."
The meltdown extended on both sides of those five possessions. A layup by Tim Pickett, who led the 'Noles with 20 points, got FSU within 54-47. Over the next 11:02, the 'Noles had one field goal, another Pickett layup, while the Wolfpack strung together a 17-5 run.
"Once we didn't score on a couple of possessions and they did, it added pressure," Pickett said. "You know they're going to take 30 seconds every time they have the ball."
Forwards Julius Hodge and Marcus Melvin combined for 41 points to lead the Wolfpack, making 15 of 25 field goals between them.
"They kind of lull you to sleep," FSU forward Michael Joiner said. "They don't do anything great, but they do a lot of things good. Marcus is a difficult matchup; he can shoot the 3 and he can post you up."
FSU was hoping for a quick start but got just the opposite. The Wolfpack scored on its first five possessions for an 11-4 lead 3:09 into the game, an ominous sign given that N.C. State managed only 25 points in the first half of a loss at Temple on Saturday.
Making matters worse was Anthony Richardson's foul trouble. The 6-foot-7 sophomore, a hometown product playing in front of family and friends, picked up his second personal with 12:39 remaining. Hamilton sat him for a couple of minutes, then put him back in with the 'Noles offense sputtering.
But the move backfired when Richardson was whistled for his third foul, a charge with 6:44 to play. FSU trailed 26-18 at the time but used its defense to spark a 12-4 run, capped by two Trevor Harvey free throws, to pull within 32-30 with 1:27 left.
The Wolfpack scored the final five, including a Melvin 3-pointer with the shot clock and the half winding down, to lead 37-30.
The 'Noles showed flashes of good play early in the second half, closing to 43-40 with 17:10 remaining, but 3-pointers from Hodge and Levi Watkins helped the Wolfpack push its advantage to 51-42.
"Their defense was good, but this is on us," Pickett said. "There wasn't anything they did that we shouldn't have been able to handle."
The Noles have two ACC road games remaining, the first Saturday at Clemson. FSU is likely to see the Tigers again in a few weeks in the ACC Tournament's play-in game.