TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State dug quite the hole for itself, falling behind by 17 points early.
But the Seminoles also had plenty in the tank to claw out of the massive deficit.
Freshman Patrick Williams and junior M.J. Walker each scored 18 points and Florida State rallied to slip past Western Carolina 79-74 on Friday in the Seminoles’ home opener.
“Showing resiliency,” senior Trent Forrest said. “Young guys getting the chance to play in that moment was big for us.”
And there were none bigger than Williams, a 6-foot-8 forward who shot 5 of 8 from the floor and was 7 of 7 from the free-throw line to help the Seminoles come back.
“Pat is obviously becoming more and more comfortable,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He had the composure to go to the free-throw line and go 7 for 7. Each one of those free throws, we needed. He’s maturing and he’s adjusting to playing at this particular level.”
Forrest had 16 points for the Seminoles (2-1), who trailed 41-24 with 3:41 to halftime. Florida State gradually chipped away at the lead, going ahead for good with 45 seconds left in the second half as Williams made a layup.
Mason Faulkner scored 21 points, including 12 in the first half, as WCU (2-2) took a commanding early lead. The Catamounts made 7 of 14 3-pointers in the first half but cooled off and was just 2 of 9 in the second half.
As they missed shots, the Seminoles were able to push the ball up the court and find high-percentage shots.
“They really, really, really started to play faster in the second half,” WCU coach Mark Prosser said. “They transitioned from defense to offense quicker and took advantage of us in that way. They really attacked the paint and they got downhill.”
Kameron Gibson scored 15 points and Carlos Dotson added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Catamounts, but they lost control of the lead down the stretch.
After Williams made a pair of free throws to give Florida State a 77-74 lead, Faulkner missed a long jumper with 3 seconds left as he hoped to make the shot and draw the foul in an attempt to tie it up and send the game to overtime.
Devin Vassell had 10 points for Florida State, which shot 25 of 55 (45.5%) from the floor
The Catamounts shot 27 of 60 (45%) from the floor, but 16 of those made field-goal attempts came in the first 20 minutes.
“Their shooting in the first half was tremendous,” Hamilton said. “I thought we lacked discipline defensively.”
HOME RUN CONTINUES
Florida State won its home opener, securing a 34th straight nonconference victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The Seminoles haven’t lost at home since Dec. 6, 2014.
ALMOST VS. ACC
WCU had not beaten an ACC school since a 79-69 victory over Florida State on Dec. 8, 2001 in Tallahassee. That was the last season for the Seminoles under Steve Robinson, before Hamilton was hired as coach.
Western Carolina: The Catamounts are at Jacksonville (Fla.) on Sunday.
Florida State: The Seminoles host Chattanooga on Nov. 20.