The Seminoles ended regulation on a 12-3 run and had a pair of last-second shots to pull off the unlikely win.
Curt Weiler, Tallahassee Democrat
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Florida State’s clutch gene was working overtime Friday.
A layup from FSU point guard Trent Forrest with 2.8 seconds left capped off a 12-3 run to end regulation and forced overtime.
An equally improbable shot from Mfiondu Kabengele with 0.5 seconds left won the game for the No. 13 Seminoles (5-0) who rallied to knock off No. 21 LSU (5-1) 79-76 in overtime in the AdvoCare Invitational Semifinals Friday night inside the HP Fieldhouse at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
“I thought our guys showed a tremendous amount of resilience,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said.
“Our guys were strong in character. I thought they grew up a little tonight. We got the stops that we needed when the game was on the line.”
With the win, the Seminoles advance to the AdvoCare Invitational Championship Game, where they will take on defending national champion Villanova (4-2) Sunday at 1 p.m.
With the game tied at 76 and 11.9 seconds, FSU brought the ball up and found Kabengele in the far corner. His three bounced off the side of the rim, up and into the net.
“The coaches told me to go in the corner because there was space there, Trent found me and I let it fly,” Kabengele said.
“It felt good off my wrist so I’m glad it bounced and I got the lucky roll.”
Added senior guard Terance Mann, “I knew (the shot) was good.”
Kabengele’s final shot will be the lasting memory, but he had an overall solid game with 15 points and four rebounds.
The shot capped off a wild game that saw 12 ties and 11 lead changes in regulation.
Before Forrest’s late layup, the Seminoles had trailed for the previous 10:13 of the game.
FSU finished its late-night win over Alabama-Birmingham Thursday about 17 hours before tipping off against the Tigers.
That didn’t look to affect the team’s energy level as the Seminoles still played with the usual high energy level that has become an early staple of the team at both ends of the court this season.
Trailing 65-56 with 3:05 left, that energy was the catalyst for the Seminoles’ unlikely rally.
“I thought that when we were down six or eight points, we generated our energy, energized ourselves,” Hamilton said.
“I thought the guys were a little fiery, they got together, reached deep down inside and found enough energy to get deflections, steals, stops and make enough plays to put us in position to win.”
FSU affected LSU on defense, forcing 18 turnovers and creating 11 steals, but was unable to keep up with the hot-shooting Tigers for much of the second half.
“We turned the ball over 18 times. That was the story of the game,” LSU head coach Will Wade said.
“They hounded us in the full court. We didn’t handle the pressure well.”
LSU maintained its lead for much of the second half thanks in large part to an 11 of 26 (42.3 percent) mark from outside the arc and shooting 52 percent from the floor for the game.
“I think any time you play as hard as we played and still struggle to hold people defensively is extremely challenging,” Hamilton said of LSU.
“I thought they did a much better job executing what they needed to do on the offensive end than what we did.”
FSU twice cut the deficit to two points and cut it to one on Walker’s three-pointer with 16.6 seconds left, but were never able to break even until the closing seconds.
Over a closely contested first half, neither team led by more than six points.
The Seminoles were held to 31.8 percent shooting inside the arc over the first half, but held a 30-29 halftime lead behind a strong performance from Walker, who finished with a game-high 21 points including five of FSU’s nine made three-pointers.
LSU guard Tremont Waters has been the Tigers’ main facilitator this season, entering Friday averaging 12 points and 7.4 assists.
Once again, FSU took away an opposing team’s best weapon as Waters finished the game with 11 points on three of six shooting, three assists and a season-high six turnovers.
However, it was LSU’s other starting guards in Skylar Mays and Ja’Vonte Smart who killed the Seminoles.
Ja’Vonte Smart notched 16 points and added eight assists and five rebounds while Mays had 19 points on seven of nine shooting.
With the win, FSU opens a season 5-0 for the second consecutive season and third time in the last five years.
FSU has beaten the defending national champion eight times in program history and will get the chance for a ninth Sunday afternoon.
What We Learned
Especially on the offensive end, FSU found success on the glass. The problem was that the team was unable to take advantage of these extra opportunities.
The Seminoles racked up 22 offensive boards, but only turned those into 12 second-chance points.
Once again, FSU was limited in what it was able to do in the fastbreak.
The Seminoles ran out of missed shots and live-ball turnovers, but were unable to turn those opportunities into fastbreak points as the Tigers’ athleticism limited them to two fastbreak points.
No. 13 Florida State vs. Villanova
AdvoCare Invitational Championship Game
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: HP Fieldhouse, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
TV/Radio: ESPN/103.1 FM