TALLAHASSEE — Florida State and Florida met Sunday night as the state's two best college basketball teams, but also as two teams hoping to learn more about themselves. The Seminoles and Gators left their matchup with the same lesson: They still have a ways to go to be as strong as they believe they can be.
After leading by nine at halftime and by 13 early in the second half, No. 16 Florida survived a Florida State rally to prevail 55-51. It was a win that provided few highlights and, fittingly, was partly decided on a broken play in the final seconds.
With less than a minute to play Florida State sophomore guard Michael Snaer made his fourth 3-pointer of the second half to cut the Gators' lead to two. On the other end Florida guard Kenny Boynton missed everything on a 3-pointer. Erik Murphy caught the airball and made a layup with 16 seconds to play.
"Honestly, it was luck," said Murphy, who finished with 10 points. "I just turned around and looked and the ball was falling into my hand. I just went up with it."
Florida's victory was its first in Tallahassee since a 58-57 win Dec. 6, 2002. Florida made 17 of 25 free throws while Florida State scored six points from the line. The Gators also had a 35-31 rebounding advantage.
"We missed out on a very good opportunity tonight, and it's back to the drawing board," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, whose Seminoles host third-ranked Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday.
The Seminoles (5-1) made things interesting down the stretch mostly thanks to their defense and a barrage of 3-pointers from Snaer, who led Florida State with 15 points. But the Seminoles couldn't overcome a miserable first-half shooting performance (28.6 percent) and turnover issues in the second half.
It wasn't all that much prettier a game for the Gators (5-1). After Boynton made a 3 with 9:17 to play for a 10-point lead, Florida didn't make another shot from the field until Murphy's layup with 16 seconds to go.
"We were struggling to score regardless, and I just decided to go maybe with our better defensive team," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose team was led by Boynton's 14 points.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.