Florida State tops Clemson 77-68 behind Kabengele
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Mfiondu Kabengele scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half and David Nichols added 16 points as Florida State halted a three-game slide with a 77-68 win over Clemson on Tuesday.
Nichols made four 3-pointers for the Seminoles (14-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Florida State came into the game shooting 31.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc but made 10 3-pointers against Clemson. That’s the most for the Seminoles in an ACC game and one short of the season high.
The Seminoles had a lead in the final three seconds against No. 1 Duke on Jan. 12 but lost 80-78. They then dropped back-to-back road games against Pittsburgh and Boston College.
“This is a very important victory for us — to stop the bleeding,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We were two seconds away from defeating the No. 1 team in the country and then all of a sudden we had an emotional setback.
“You have to learn how to handle victories but you also have to learn how to handle losses, too. I think we showed a little of our immaturity.”
The Seminoles’ veterans as well as the newcomers showed their fight on Tuesday. After they trailed for most of the game, Florida State used a 13-0 run to take a 63-55 lead with 6:50 left. The run was sparked by consecutive 3-pointers from RaiQuan Gray, Devin Vassell and Nichols and the Seminoles were in control the rest of the way.
Aamir Sims scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half for Clemson (11-7, 1-4), which has lost four of its last five games. Elijah Thomas also had 17 points and 11 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season.
“Disappointed with the way we defended in the second half,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought our offensive struggles affected our defense. We just didn’t play the way we needed to play.”
Kabengele scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 25 minutes. The sophomore forward came off the bench to score in double figures for the 11th time in 19 games this season.
Nichols, a graduate transfer from Albany, made a season-best four 3-pointers. He shot 6 of 10 from the floor.
The Seminoles shot 45.5 percent (25 of 55) from the floor and 45.5 percent (10 of 22) from beyond the 3-point arc.
Clemson shot 44.8 percent (26 of 58) from the floor, but made just 1 of 9 shots from beyond the arc in the second half.
Clemson: The Tigers have rarely had much luck in Tallahassee, going 8-23 all-time on the road in the series.
Florida State: Playing without star senior forward Phil Cofer, who has a foot injury, the Seminoles won their fourth straight at home against Clemson.
The Seminoles’ bench contributed 45 points on Tuesday. Florida State’s reserves have outscored opponents 204-70 in its six ACC games.
“Everybody is important,” Kabengele said. “The way our bench responded today was outstanding.”
PROTECTING HOME COURT
Florida State is now 40-3 at home since the beginning of 2015-16 season. The Seminoles are 9-1 at the Donald L. Tucker Center this season.
Clemson plays at NC State on Saturday.
Florida State travels to Miami on Sunday. The Seminoles defeated the Hurricanes 68-62 on Jan. 9.