TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - With few exceptions, Florida State hasn't done anything the easy way this season and the last game of the regular season was no different.
The 22nd-ranked Seminoles were on the verge of blowing a 16-point second-half lead in the final seconds of Sunday's game against Clemson and coach Leonard Hamilton was uncharacteristically stomping his foot in disgust and scolding his players.
"We have found a way to win regardless of our strengths and weaknesses," a relieved Hamilton said after his team repelled a late charge with some clutch free throw shooting for an 80-72 victory. "We were able to regroup, hit our free throws and make some plays at the end."
You could hardly blame Hamilton for being as animated as he was considering the wild season he's been through. The Seminoles lost to Princeton in triple-overtime and at Boston College and won at No. 4 Duke and hammered No. 6 North Carolina by 33 points. Three Florida State wins came as time ran out on desperation 3-pointers, two by Michael Snaer.
And while it was the final home game for six Seminole seniors, Snaer, a junior, led the way with a career-high 23 points, although three seniors finished in double figures.
Bernard James and Xavier Gibson both had 13 points and Luke Loucks added 10, including three critical free throws in the final 18 seconds.
"We dodged a bullet today," said Snaer, who was perfect in four tries from 3-point range in the first half when Florida State shot 64 percent, including 8 of 11 on 3s, in building a 49-33 lead.
The Seminoles (21-9, 12-4) finished third in the ACC behind North Carolina and Duke and have a first-round bye in the league tournament that begins Thursday.
"We just couldn't guard them in the first half," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "When they shoot the ball like they did tonight, they are very hard to beat."
The Seminoles finished shooting 50 percent overall and were 11 of 19 from 3-point range.
Snaer finished 5 of 7 from behind the arc. His fifth 3-pointer pushed him past the 1,000-point mark and gave the Seminoles a 69-58 lead with 5:24 left.
Clemson (16-14, 8-8) scratched back from a 16-point deficit early in the second half and climbed within 75-72 with 30 seconds left on two free throws by freshman K.J. McDaniels.
"Our guys did a great job of battling back and gave ourselves a chance but we were just too far behind against a good team," Brownell said. "We were 3-6 in the league at one time and I'm proud of the way our guys have hung in there and finished."
McDaniels and Andre Young scored 16 points each and Devin Booker had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Clemson, which had won five of six.
Clemson handed the Seminoles a 79-59 loss in the conference opener for both on the Tigers' home court on Jan. 7.
"Tonight they got us," Brownell said. "They have good inside players, they have guards that can make shots and are very experienced."
Ian Miller, whose 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Seminoles a 63-60 win at Virginia on Thursday, added 11 points while James recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 11 rebounds, six offensive. The 6-foot-10 James, who was ejected in the Virginia game for kicking the Cavaliers' Joe Harris, had three blocked shots.
Four-year seniors Gibson, Loucks and Deividas Dulkys were part of Florida State teams that have won 91 games and no fewer than 21 in a season with an anticipated fourth straight NCAA tournament invite upcoming.
"They came here when it wasn't fashionable," Hamilton said. "Maybe the best is to come."
The 12-4 finish in ACC play matches Florida State's best. The Seminoles were 12-4 in 1992-93 with a lineup that featured four NBA first-round draft picks: Sam Cassell, Doug Edwards, Seminole career scoring leader Bob Sura and point guard Charlie Ward, who later that year captured the Heisman Trophy while leading his team to a national championship in football.
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