Clemson starting point guard and former Deerfield star Andre Young, right, blows by Florida State’s Bernard James during the first half of Sunday’s ACC game in Tallahassee, Fla. Young finished with a team-high 16 points, but the Tigers lost, 80-72.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With just six days left until “Selection Sunday,” The Clemson Tigers’ NCAA Tournament résumé needed a shot in the arm.
And a win Sunday on the road at No. 22 Florida State sure would’ve gone a long way.
But despite a team-high 16 points from former Deerfield-Windsor star Andre Young, who was playing his final regular-season game in a Tigers uniform after a stellar four-year career at Clemson, the Seminoles’ scorching day from the floor was simply too much to overcome in an 80-72 FSU win.
“It’s tough to end (the regular season) on a losing note,” said Young, who had 11 points by halftime on 5-of-7 shooting as nearly 30 members of his family and friends made the trip from Albany and sat directly behind the Clemson bench in support. “FSU is tough. Every time they scored, they tried to push it back at us. They played with really good pace. It’s hard to guard.”
The Seminoles didn’t make things easy on Young and the Tigers, who came in on a three-game winning streak. FSU came out red-hot from every corner on the floor — especially 3-point range. They hit 9-of-11 from beyond the arc by halftime — including sharpshooter Michael Snaer going 4-for-4 — and finished the first half ahead, 49-33, after posting a staggering 64 percent field goal percentage in the first 20 minutes of the game.
“We just couldn’t guard them in the first half,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “When they shoot the ball like they did (Sunday), they are very hard to beat.”
The Seminoles finished shooting 50 percent overall and were 11-of-19 from 3-point range, while Clemson shot a sub-par 39.4 percent in the first half and only slightly improved on that in the second half at 42.5 percent.
Young did what he could to keep the Tigers in the game early as he scored five of Clemson’s first nine points in the opening five minutes of the game — including a tough, contested 3-pointer that found nothing but net — and also grabbed two rebounds, had one steal and an assist. But as FSU’s shots started to fall one by one — the Seminoles made eight buckets in a row during one stretch late in the first half — Clemson (16-14, 8-8 ACC) fell further behind. The 49 points put up by FSU at halftime was the third-most all season for the normally low-scoring, defensive-minded Seminoles.
“For whatever reason, defensively I thought we were awful in the first half,” Brownell said. “Some of that was because of them — they were really ready to play. When you make shots like that, the momentum really starts to build. It was difficult for us.”
The second half, however, was a different story as FSU fans in Donald L. Tucker Center were on the edge of their seats after a late Clemson run made the game much closer than the final score indicated.
Young took a backseat to freshman teammate K.J. McDaniels after halftime, scoring just five points after the break on 2-of-7 shooting, as Daniels did most of the heavy lifting to bring Clemson — still down by 10 with 3:38 to go — back to within three points with just 30.6 seconds left. The Tigers went on a late 10-1 run, with McDaniels’ two free throws narrowing the margin to one possession.
But Clemson lost the free-throw game, fouling FSU leading scorer Snaer, who calmly sunk both to put FSU back ahead by five.
“We dodged a bullet,” said Snaer, who had a career-high 23 points, of Clemson’s strong second-half surge.
On Clemson’s final two possessions, Young — one of just three seniors on the roster — took it upon himself to try and bring the Tigers back. But he missed a 3-pointer that would’ve cut the FSU lead to two points then turned the ball over on the next trip down the floor after an errant pass. Luke Loucks added three free throws during the final 18 seconds to seal the win for the Seminoles (21-9, 12-4), who finished third in the ACC behind No. 6 North Carolina and No. 4 Duke.
Brownell, however, lauded Young’s play in his senior’s final regular-season game.
“At times he looks out of place because he’s so small,” Brownell said of his 5-foot-9 point guard, who left Deerfield as its all-time leading scorer and had his jersey retired earlier this year. “But he’s crafty, he’s smart, he’s tough, he can shoot. He’s a battler.
“Our guys did a great job of battling back and gave ourselves a chance, but we were just too far behind against a good team.”
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton was visibly upset with his team as he watched the Seminoles’ lead dwindle and was seen stomping his foot in disgust and scolding his players.
“We have found a way to win regardless of our strengths and weaknesses,” Hamilton said. “We were able to regroup, hit our free throws and make some plays at the end.”
Four-year seniors Xavier Gibson, Loucks and Deividas Dulkys were part of Florida State teams that have won 91 games and no fewer than 21 in a season with an anticipated fourth straight NCAA Tournament invite upcoming.
“They came here when it wasn’t fashionable,” Hamilton said. “Maybe the best is to come.”
The 12-4 finish in ACC play matches Florida State’s best. The Seminoles were 12-4 in 1992-93 with a lineup that featured four NBA first-round draft picks: Sam Cassell, Doug Edwards, Seminole career scoring leader Bob Sura and point guard Charlie Ward, who later that year captured the Heisman Trophy while leading his team to a national championship in football.
Now the ACC Tournament, which starts Thursday in Atlanta, awaits both teams. Clemson, which likely will need to win the tourney to get into the Big Dance, will be a No. 7 seed and open against No. 10 Virginia Tech on Thursday at 7 p.m., while Florida State will be the 3 seed and open at 9 p.m. on Friday — after getting a first-round bye — against the winner of the first-round matchup between No. 6 Miami and No. 11 Georgia Tech.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report