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In each of his first 26 games this season, Florida State’s leading scorer Dwayne Bacon scored at least 10 points.
That streak ended in oddly emphatic fashion Saturday in the 17th-ranked Seminoles’ 80-66 loss at Pittsburgh.
Bacon, an all-conference candidate who entered averaging nearly 18 points per game, went scoreless for the first time in his two-year college career. Weirder still, he did not attempt a shot in a virtually invisible first half.
Determined to assert himself after halftime, Bacon forced two pull-up jump shots and two quick 3-pointers in the second half’s opening five minutes. Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton pulled Bacon with the Seminoles down 10 less than a minute later and did not reinsert him into the game the rest of the second half.
Bacon’s no-show contributed to one of Florida State’s worst losses of the season against a Pittsburgh team that’s 4-10 in the ACC and would be fortunate to make the NIT. Florida State has plenty of quality depth, but it relies on Bacon to be a go-to threat and set the tone.
It also didn’t help that the Seminoles played uninspired defense until they fell behind by as many as 15 midway through the second half.
Sheldon Jeter (29 points) presented a matchup problem for Florida State’s mammoth but slow-footed center Michael Ojo. The Seminoles tried several defenders on Jeter, but none were quick enough to guard him out to the 3-point arc or stay in front of him off the bounce.
Florida State did put together one strong defensive stretch to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to two late in the second half, but even that proved short-lived. The Panthers responded with a 16-2 surge to take back control of the game and put the Seminoles away.
Saturday’s loss could be costly for Florida State’s hopes not only of winning a league title but also securing a double-bye in the ACC tournament. The Seminoles (21-6, 9-5) now sit in fifth place in the league standings, behind first-place North Carolina, Louisville, Duke and Notre Dame.
The primary culprit for Florida State has been an inability to play as well away from home as in Tallahassee. The Seminoles have dropped five of their last six road games, a testament to the challenges of playing in the ACC but also to their lack of consistency and maturity.
Florida State has four games left in the regular season, with home games against Boston College and Miami sandwiched around visits to Clemson and Duke.
Anything short of three wins, and the Seminoles can probably forget a top-four ACC finish and the double bye that comes with it.
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