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No. 19 FSU Seminoles rally from late deficit to beat USF Bulls

USF controls most of the game and leads by 10 in the final 7 minutes, but Florida State uses a smothering defense to pull out a 66-60 win.
USF's B.J. Mack looks to pass despite tight defense by Florida State's M.J. Walker as Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton yells out in the first half during the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Sunrise.
USF's B.J. Mack looks to pass despite tight defense by Florida State's M.J. Walker as Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton yells out in the first half during the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Sunrise. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published Dec. 22, 2019

SUNRISE — Florida State had trouble making a shot. USF had trouble getting a shot.

The No. 19 Seminoles used smothering defense to overcome a 10-point deficit in the final seven minutes and beat the Bulls 66-60 Saturday in the opening game of the Orange Bowl Classic.

FSU shot only 40 percent but matched a season high by forcing 24 turnovers, including seven down the stretch when it outscored USF 19-3.

“When we went down 10, I thought we became more aggressive,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Our aggressiveness generated some easy baskets off turnovers.”

FSU (10-2) deployed double teams along the sidelines and near midcourt to repeatedly force USF mistakes late in the game.

“We had a plan to trap the ball screen,” said guard Anthony Polite, chosen the game’s most valuable player. “That led to a few steals that gave us energy, and we were able to get some easy baskets in transition. That gave us momentum.”

The Bulls (6-6) lost to a ranked team for the 27th consecutive time since 2012.

“The guys are ticked off because we lost that game, which is good for me to able to coach them, because they are not going to accept the fact that we just competed and hung in there,” coach Brian Gregory said. “They want to take another step.”

With 13 steals and 21 points off turnovers, the Seminoles won despite poor shooting, including 7-for-27 from 3-point range. They also were outrebounded by 14.

“They outplayed us for the majority of the game,” Hamilton said. “They brought a lot more than we had asked for.”

RaiQuan Gray had 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals for FSU. Polite, Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker also scored 11 apiece.

A flurry of nine points in 39 seconds by the Bulls — including a pair of 3s and two free throws off a technical foul — gave them a 57-47 lead with 6:32 to go. But they didn’t score another field goal until the final seconds and committed turnovers on four consecutive possessions as the Seminoles pulled ahead.

The technical foul was called on the FSU bench, but Hamilton pleaded innocent. “I really don’t know what happened on the technical,” he said. “The ref was on the other side of the court. He has really good ears, I guess. I didn’t hear it, and I was right there.”

Michael Durr had 15 points and seven rebounds for USF, which shot just 3-of-15 from 3-point range.

The Seminoles trailed for more than 33 minutes and made only one of their first 13 shots as USF raced to a 17-4 advantage.