TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — While Terry Whisnant was at the free throw line for two shots, with the chance to put Florida State up by 4 over Boston College with six seconds left on Saturday and calm the nerves on the Seminoles’ bench, BC’s best 3-point shooter, Lonnie Jackson, was sneaking to the other side of the floor, setting himself up for a 3-pointer just in case Whisnant couldn’t slam the door.
It just so happened Florida State forward Okaro White noticed.
He pointed back and yelled, “Watch the corner!”
The odds were slim for BC, but the chance was there. Florida State had won three games this season on buzzer-beaters.
Whisnant missed his first foul shot, made the second, and the Eagles came down the court with the game in their hands.
Up by 3, calling for a foul crossed the mind of Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton’s. That would put the Eagles on the free throw line, and even if they hit both shots they’d still trail by 1.
Then, Hamilton reconsidered. “I’ve seen some horror shows,” he said.
So he let it play out.
The ball never got to Jackson. Instead, BC guard Olivier Hanlan found Ryan Anderson by himself on the wing.
Anderson had made only three 3-pointers all season. But all Hamilton could think of was the one Anderson hit last season when the Eagles stunned a Seminoles team that was ranked 15th.
When he saw Anderson release the tying 3-point attempt, Leonard said, “I didn’t feel real comfortable. There’s no doubt about that. I don’t know how we left a guy that wide open.
“I don’t know what my stomach was looking like, but I’m sure the acid was flowing.”
As it arced, looking like it would splash through, all Seminoles point guard Devon Bookert could think was, “Not overtime.”
When it bounced off the front of the rim, sealing a 69-66 win for the Seminoles, all Anderson could do was stand still as a statue with his shooting hand craned as he stared at the rim.
“It looked pretty good,” said Anderson, who finished with his seventh double-double of the season (10 points, 11 rebounds). “It was straight. I think it was just one of those things after a long game I just left it short. It felt good, though. We got a great look, we couldn’t ask for a better shot at the end of a game. It’s a tough way to lose.”
The Eagles dropped to 11-14, 3-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and their league losses have almost all been close calls. This was their sixth ACC loss by 5 points or fewer and BC’s third straight game overall that went down to the final possession.
“We’re obviously trying to build this program,” BC coach Steve Donahue said. “I know when I coached really good basketball teams, and the kids know it, there’s a sense of how you’re going to win today. We don’t have that sense yet.”
The Eagles were again polished off by one of the ACC’s veteran closers. Michael Snaer scored 11 of his 21 points in the second half and 8 in the final five minutes, including four free throws with the Eagles in sniffing distance.
The Seminoles (14-11, 6-6) abandoned most of their routines for this game. Thinking his team was sluggish last weekend when it was thumped by Wake Forest, Hamilton got his players up at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday for a noon start, just to get their blood flowing. They had practiced the night before and switched from their normal defensive scheme because BC’s offense is so different.
“Going into this game, I thought that Boston College was an extremely dangerous team,” Hamilton said. “Because I thought they were a little further with the execution of their offensive system than maybe our defensive system was. They’ve done a great job all year long of getting [teams] in and out of their systems, creating high percentage shots for their team.”
But all the Eagles have to show for it is one road win and more close calls than they care to count.
“I think especially for a lot of young guys, it’s tough,” Anderson said. “We’re just getting our first road win this year. It’s just a growing process when you go on the road.
“It [stinks] when you lose a ballgame, especially when everyone brings hard work every single day into the gym and it just doesn’t seem to translate on the court. But Coach D made a great point to us. We’re climbing, we’re really close, but we can’t give up.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.