Miami’s seniors wanted to go out winners on Saturday, but Florida State senior forward Al Thornton apparently thought Senior Day was meant for him. He scored a career- high 45 points, leading the Seminoles to a 98-90 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon.
The Hurricanes (11-19, 4-12 ACC) began Senior Day on fire. They played with an emotional lift after honoring seniors Anthony Harris, Anthony King and Keaton Copeland in a pre-game ceremony, Miami drained six of nine threes in the first half and led 37-33 at halftime.
The ‘Canes hot shooting continued in the second half, but after taking a 10-point lead at 61-51 with 12:10 to play, Florida State (19-11, 7-9) began to press more and the Hurricanes began to miss shots.
The Seminoles climbed back and four missed free throws down the stretch by Miami helped FSU pull within three points. A Douglas Toney three with seven seconds left tied the game and a desperation heave by guard Jack McClinton missed, sending the game to overtime.
“We missed free throws down the stretch,” Head Coach Frank Haith said. “When you want to win a close game like that you have to hit your free throws.”
Miami began the overtime period with a Jimmy Graham turnover and it went downhill. FSU outscored the Hurricanes 16-8 to gain the victory. McClinton, who had been huge for Miami the entire game, managed only three overtime points.
“I don’t know that there is a more athletically talented team than FSU in our league,” Haith said.
UM closes the season having lost 11 of their last 13 games, but Saturday’s Senior Day was probably their best effort. Shooting 50 percent from the field and hitting 10-21 threes helped, but the ‘Canes relied less on the one-on-one game and looked to make the extra pass more. Their 16 assists were almost four more than their average.
McClinton did everything he could to deliver a win for his senior teammates. A career-high 31 points, including five three pointers, McClinton said he was just taking Haith’s advice to play free.
“I was just playing; wasn’t really thinking,” he said. “Like coach said, I was just playing free.”
McClinton entered the game have scored at least 10 points in each of his last nine games, including a 21-point outburst last week against Clemson. Saturday, he even got help from his teammates. Anthony Harris, playing in his final home game, scored 19 points and had eight assists. Brian Asbury added 16 points and nine rebounds.
FSU, on the other hand, was all Thornton, as the senior forward scored 45 points on 16-24 shooting, including a perfect 11-11 at the free throw line.
“Al Thornton is a great player,” Haith said. “He wasn’t going to let them lose. What he did out there today was ridiculous.”
Losing the game down the stretch hurt Miami more than one might think. The loss clinched the 12th seed in next week’s ACC tournament, whereas a win could have earned the ‘Canes the 10th seed, provided NC State had lost. With the loss to FSU, that point becomes moot.
The Hurricanes will return to action on Thursday, Mar. 8 in the ACC Tournament against the No. 5 seed.
“When you get in a tournament setting anything can happen,” Haith said. “I don’t think our guys are ready to throw in the towel.”
Brian Yates may be contacted at email@example.com.