The NCAA tournament bubble was floating out of reach of the Florida State Seminoles entering Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Seminoles had dropped six of their eight games in ACC play and needed everything to fall their way to make the field of 68.
Florida State completed its first task on a lengthy list of things it must do to make the tournament by defeating the Panthers 71-66 on the road at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday. It was a much-needed victory to add to the Seminoles’ index of quality wins this season.
It was the little things that enabled Florida State to secure the victory late in the game. In a futile offensive second half from both teams, the Seminoles made the plays that mattered. FSU got to the free throw line at will, shooting an efficient 20-of-24 from the charity stripe in the second stanza. Florida State’s stifling defense held Pitt to just 37 percent shooting from the field. Only two Panthers players scored in double figures.
Seminoles forward Okaro White played a crucial role in the upset. The senior finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, and drained a critical off-balance 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to give Florida State a 58-52 lead that it would never relinquish. White and the Seminoles spoiled the senior night of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna in the process. Patterson was cold for most of the night, shooting just 8-of-21. He hit four meaningless 3-pointers with under two minutes to go to match White’s game-high 22 points.
While the win helps bolster FSU’s tournament résumé, Pittsburgh — a near lock to make the tourney — is tumbling down the seeding ladder. The Panthers have fallen into the trap of playing close games against all of its opponents over their last six games. The Panthers needed two overtimes to upend lowly Virginia Tech and one overtime to beat Miami on the road. During that span, Pitt also lost on heartbreaking buzzer-beaters to both Syracuse and Virginia.
On Sunday, the Panthers were dealt one of their worst losses of the season.