Florida State didn’t do much to bolster its NCAA tournament chances Tuesday. It did, however, put an end to Boston College’s perfectly imperfect season.
The 11th-seeded Seminoles eventually shook off the pesky 14th-seeded Eagles, claiming an 88-66 victory on the first day of the ACC tournament at Verizon Center.
Devon Bookert scored 15 points while Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley both added 13 points for Florida State (19-12, 8-10 ACC), which will face sixth-seeded Virginia Tech (18-13, 10-8) Wednesday at 9 p.m. in the second round.
The Seminoles need an extended run in D.C. to make a serious case for an NCAA at-large berth, though victories over Notre Dame and Syracuse to close out the season provided some help to Leonard Hamilton’s team. Defeating Boston College provided little immediate benefit, though it took some time to shake off the Eagles.
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“They weren’t just going to lay down and give up,” Bacon said. “The first five minutes we didn’t really play defense the way we had the last two games. After that, we just decided we wanted to really win and to take a huge lead you have to play defense and that’s what we did.”
Boston College senior center Dennis Clifford closed his career with a 15-point, nine-rebound effort for the Eagles (7-25). What he didn’t get was a victory – any victory – against an ACC school.
Boston College endured one of the worst seasons in conference history. It went 0-18 against league opponents in the regular season, the first to navigate an ACC schedule without a victory since Maryland in 1987. The Eagles also became the first ACC team to drop 25 games overall in a season (both 2011 Wake Forest and 2014 Boston College lost 24 times).
Four of the Eagles’ top six scorers this season, including Raleigh native Jerome Robinson, are freshmen.
“We played a lot of games and these guys got to play a lot of minutes,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said. “Now they have to assess what they need to do to be successful at this level. Otherwise, it wasn’t a very good learning experience.”
Boston College held a 19-17 lead 11 minutes into the game and was tied when leading scorer Eli Carter (21 points) picked up his third foul with 5:46 left in the half. While Carter’s volume shooting wasn’t always ideal for the Eagles, he was their most established backcourt option, and Florida State exploited his absence to build a 39-30 edge by the break.
The Seminoles pushed their advantage to 16 early in the second half, but Boston College managed to linger. But Clifford fouled out with 9:28 remaining with Florida State up 65-56, leaving the Eagles without their only credible interior presence.
From there, Bacon, Beasley and Bookert took turns carving up the Eagles during an 11-1 run that finally sealed the victory. Florida State finished with a 42-22 scoring advantage in the paint on the day.
“Their top three players being in foul trouble I thought was as a result of us being aggressive and taking the ball to the basket,” Hamilton said. “That was our game plan from the beginning and I thought it really made the difference in the game.”
Ultimately, it was a predictable outcome against an opponent struggling at historic levels. A tougher task awaits Wednesday against Virginia Tech, which won the teams’ regular-season meeting 83-73 in Blacksburg, Va., on Feb. 20.
“The first time we played Virginia Tech, we were up almost the whole game,” Bacon said. “It was just the last part we stopped defending, stopped moving the ball, kept the ball on one side. We just grew from that these last three games.”