TALLAHASSEE — Defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State may not repeat next week at the ACC tournament, but the Seminoles served notice Saturday that they still intend to have something to say about it.
Freshman Devon Bookert scored a career-high 18 points and Michael Snaer added 17 as Florida State fought back from an eight-point deficit in the second half to defeat North Carolina State 71-67 in the regular-season finale for both teams. The win — Florida State's eighth of the conference season by five points or fewer, came less than 48 hours after Virginia fell 53-51 in Tallahassee.
"What we see is some youngsters growing up in front of our eyes," said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, who has weaved a handful of freshmen and two junior college transfers into his lineup after losing six seniors off last year's titlists. "We are hoping that this will give us some confidence as we prepare for the ACC tournament."
A pair of free throws by Bookert gave the Seminoles (17-14, 9-9) their first lead of the second half at 57-55. The 6-foot-1 freshman from Anchorage added a jumper with 2:01 left to snap a tie at 62 with 2:01 left. He added three free throws in the final 1:23 of the see-saw contest which featured nine lead changes and nine tied scores. Bookert scored 10 points in the final 5:09.
"He knew we needed to have some baskets," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He really came through."
Snaer broke away and caught a length-of-the court pass from Okaro White for an uncontested dunk that gave Florida State a 67-63 lead with 32 seconds left after both teams suffered turnovers in previous possessions with the lead on the line.
"As soon as I took off, I knew the guy behind me wasn't going to catch me," Snaer said. "Once I saw it I knew he was going to throw it."
Richard Howell's three-point play with 21 seconds left got the 'Pack to within 67-66. He scored off a missed 3 by Wood and was fouled on the put-back.
Scott Wood's 18 points led North Carolina State, which could lose out on a first-round bye in next week's ACC tournament if Virginia defeats Maryland on Sunday. The Wolfpack had won six of its seven previous games and hoped to strengthen its position for an NCAA postseason bid.
North Carolina State (22-9, 11-7) led 35-34 at the half and built its advantage to eight points on three occasions in the second half — the last time at 49-41. The Wolfpack still led 59-57 with 3:51 left when Wood sank two free throws after a technical foul was whistled against Florida State's Ian Miller, who had just fouled out.
Florida State was scrambling down the stretch to finish with a .500 conference mark and perhaps win an invite for a postseason NIT bid.
Freshman T.J. Warren, whose .613 field goal percentage leads the ACC, had season-highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds to lead NC State to an 84-66 win over the Seminoles in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 19, but finished with just eight points Saturday.
Lorenzo Brown, who led an 11-2 run to end the first half that gave NC State a 35-34 lead, scored 14 points and Howell finished with 10. C.J. Leslie, who played just 18 minutes because of foul trouble, had just five points and three rebounds.
"We hurt ourselves," North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried said. "Had opportunities— just didn't take advantage of them."
Wood and Brown each had 12 points in the first half while Leslie sat for 12 minutes on the bench after three early fouls — the third being assessed on a technical.
"If you get to play N.C. State without Richard (Howell) and Calvin (C.J. Leslie) playing that much, you're better off," Gottfried said.