Going into the intermission of Saturday’s matchup with #12 Virginia, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon had three points on 1-for-5 shooting.
At halftime, FSU’s Head Coach Leonard Hamilton had some encouragement for his young guard. “I told Dwayne at halftime, I said, ‘Son, you’re taking great shots, and you’ve just got to keep shooting the ball and they’re just going to start falling.’ I didn’t feel uncomfortable with that at all because we have the utmost confidence in him.”
And, boy, did the shots fall. Bacon shot a red-hot 10-for-13 (77%) from the field in the second half, going 5-for-7 from three - including the game winner with two seconds left on the clock.
With 22 seconds left and Virginia trailing 57-55, FSU’s Jonathan Isaac missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Hoos found first year Kyle Guy for an electrifying three from the corner with 10 seconds left, giving Virginia a narrow 58-57 lead. After a quick inbounds play, Bacon brought the ball up. Isaiah Wilkins closed out on the sophomore, getting a hand in his face as Bacon stepped back and launched the dagger as the home crowd of 14,623 groaned in disbelief.
“I want the ball in my hands at the last minutes of the game, no matter what type of situation it is,” Bacon said post game. “I was feeling the shot and I had already hit five threes, so I just was like, ‘I’ll try this’.”
“I think [Bacon] is a special player,” Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett said after the game. “The shot he hit at the end of the game - from my vantage point - was pretty contested and tough, and he just rose up and that is elite scoring.
Virginia’s London Perrantes agreed. “He’s the real deal,” Virginia’s senior point guard said of Bacon. “He’s a good player...able to shoot the ball off the dribble, pull up from three, midrange, and at the rim...he gave us problems.”
Bacon’s final shot wasn’t the only backbreaker down the stretch. Tied at 51 all with three minutes remaining, Bacon missed two straight free throws, but found his own rebound on the second miss. He pulled up for a clean jumper to give FSU the lead, and then hit a three pointer on the next trip down the court after a Jack Salt layup rimmed out. Other than a free throw make by Isaac, Bacon scored 10 of FSU’s final 11 points.
Florida State shot 45% in the second half as they overcame a seven point halftime deficit. As a team, the Seminoles went 8-for-15 from beyond the arc, the first time all season that a team has shot over 50% from three against the Hoos.
“The first thing I said to our team when we walked into the locker room was, ‘Welcome to the ACC.’ I said, ‘If you are not right, and you are not executing all of the way through, you will not be successful’,” Bennett stated. “That is why in those games, if you can get them, you take them. Obviously, Louisville, we went in there and got a win. Florida State, they came in here, and that is a talented offensive group. You are just going to have to be ready to play at home or away.”
Virginia, now 11-2 (1-1 ACC), shot a respectable 45% from the field for the game - including a strong 9-for-16 from three - but turned the ball over 13 times. Guy led all Virginia scorers with 14 points, and Perrantes, Devon Hall, and Marial Shayok all had 10 points apiece. The loss for Virginia was their first ACC home opening loss since January 8, 2011 (UNC), and their second home ACC loss in 37 games, but the Hoos aren’t getting down.
“Trust in the process,” Hall said after the game. “This is not one game where we stop and think, ‘Oh, this is the end of the world.’ This is a process that we are going to keep on flowing with, trusting Coach Bennett and whatever we’re doing. This is one bump in the road.”
On a day that #5 Duke and #9 UNC fell to ACC foes Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, respectively, Perrantes echoed both Hall’s and Bennett’s sentiments regarding the strength of the league this season.
“I think this is going to be the toughest ACC play that I’ve been a part of all four years,” Perrantes stated. “I feel like top to bottom it’s going to be tough.”
Welcome to the ACC, indeed.