Surge in 2nd half pushes Semi­noles

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports -

WIN­STON-SALEM, N.C. — Florida State made no ex­cuses for its slug­gish first half.

The No. 14 Semi­noles fell be­hind 14-2 to Wake For­est, a team near the bot­tom of the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence stand­ings. Then came a sec­ond­half surge — 18 straight points — and a 65-57 vic­tory. Florida State won for the 12th time in 13 games to fin­ish fourth in con­fer­ence.

“They kept us out of sorts,” FSU coach Leonard Hamil­ton said. “We couldn’t find our rhythm. I just felt Wake For­est did a very good job de­fen­sively of not let­ting us do what we need to do.”

The Semi­noles (25-6,

13-5 ACC) never led un­til grab­bing the lead at 47-45 on Trent For­rest’s bas­ket with 7:28 left. Phil Cofer fol­lowed with an easy bas­ket, then M.J. Walker sup­plied the knock­out with a

3-pointer.

The Dea­cons (11-19, 4-14 ACC) fre­quently switched de­fenses, mak­ing it hard for the Semi­noles to get the ball in­side to 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje and 6-10 Mfiondu Kaben­gele.

For­rest led a bal­anced FSU at­tack — 11 play­ers scored — with 11 points. Koumadje had 8 points and 10 re­bounds. After a cold-shoot­ing first half by both teams, FSU shot 54 per­cent in the sec­ond half.

Bran­don Chil­dress, who scored three bas­kets to spark the Dea­cons to their early 12-point lead, fin­ished with 13 points and Chaun­dee Brown added 11 — all in the first half.

The Dea­cons, who shot just 26 per­cent, went score­less for nearly six min­utes as the Semi­noles erased a 45-40 deficit with their 18-0 run.

Wake For­est was 16 of 16 from the foul line en route to a 31-24 half­time lead as both teams strug­gled from the field. But the Dea­cons made only 6 of 13 from the line in the sec­ond half.

“We came out low en­ergy, but we didn’t take them lightly,” Koumadje said. “Their de­fense was kind of tricky. But at the end of the day, we did what we had to do.”

PJ Savoy’s 3-pointer with 9:28 left pulled FSU into a tie at 45 — the first time the Semi­noles hadn’t trailed since Wake For­est scored the open­ing bas­ket.

“I thought we ex­e­cuted a lot bet­ter (in the sec­ond half ),” Hamil­ton said. “We got some tremen­dous help from our non-starters in the first half.”

Big pic­ture

Florida State: The Semi­noles capped their first 25-game reg­u­lar sea­son and main­tained their mo­men­tum head­ing into the ACC Tour­na­ment.

Wake For­est: The Dea­cons gave a strong per­for­mance for 30 min­utes against a ranked team — they blew a big lead ear­lier in the week in a one­point loss to Duke — for the sec­ond straight home game. They’ll need to con­tinue their im­proved play in the tour­na­ment in Char­lotte to ex­tend their sea­son.

Stat pack

Florida State ral­lied to fin­ish 12-5 in the ACC after a 1-4 start that in­cluded losses at Pitt and Bos­ton Col­lege, which fin­ished back in the stand­ings. But the Semi­noles played only sin­gle games (all losses) against Vir­ginia, North Carolina and Duke.

Se­nior night

Wake For­est se­nior An­thony Bi­las, a sel­dom-used re­serve was in the start­ing lineup for the first time in his last home game. Bi­las’ fa­ther, Jay, a col­lege bas­ket­ball an­a­lyst for ESPN, was in at­ten­dance be­fore go­ing to Chapel Hill for the broad­cast of the Duke-North Carolina game. Bi­las re-en­tered the game in the fi­nal sec­onds and made an open 3-pointer for the game’s fi­nal points.

Up next

Florida State: Plays Vir­ginia Tech or the Wake For­est/Mi­ami win­ner in the third round of the ACC tour­na­ment in Char­lotte on March 14.

Wake For­est: Plays Mi­ami in the first round of the ACC tour­na­ment on March 12. Florida State's Ter­ance Mann (14) drives to the bas­ket over Wake For­est's Sun­day Okeke (34) dur­ing the Semi­noles' win Sat­ur­day.

WOODY MAR­SHALL/AP

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