Florida State men’s basketball’s loses sixth straight game in lopsided fashion at UNC

Matthew Cleveland tries to protect the ball during Florida State's 94-74 loss at North Carolina on Feb. 12, 2022.

Matthew Cleveland tries to protect the ball during Florida State’s 94-74 loss at North Carolina on Feb. 12, 2022.

The bottom may have finally fallen out for Florida State.

Despite a rash of injuries to key players, the FSU men’s basketball team has managed to stay competitive of late during its losing streak.

But there was very little competitiveness Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Taking on North Carolina in an arena FSU hasn’t won at since 2010, the Seminoles were run out of the gym from the opening tip.

After trailing by 38 points at halftime, the Seminoles (13-11, 6-8 in ACC) fell 94-74 to the Tar Heels (18-7, 10-4) Saturday afternoon at the Dean E. Smith Center in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicates.

“It’s obvious to me that unfortunately we’ve been affected a little bit by not having the availability of our veterans,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said after the loss.

“You don’t ever like to accept that, you like to think that everyone is going to have the next-man-up philosophy. But somehow or another, I think it’s having an adverse effect on us. I thought it showed up this afternoon…

“You can’t go on the road with as talented a team as North Carolina and not be at your very, very best in order to be successful. I thought today, we caught them at their best and I thought we were anywhere close to being as good as what I think we’re capable of being.”

It’s the Seminoles’ sixth straight loss, marking the program’s longest losing streak since FSU lost nine straight games late in the 2004-05 season.

Injury update: Florida State guard Anthony Polite reveals timetable for possible return

Previous game: Florida State’s poor shooting the difference in home loss to Pittsburgh

Three UNC players had reached double figures by halftime and four Tar Heels finished with 16-plus points. Caleb Love led the way with 18 points, all of which came on six made three-pointers. ACC Player of the Year contender Armando Bacot scored 17 points with 14 rebounds.

Cam’Ron Fletcher was perhaps a rare bright spot for the Seminoles in the loss. Playing a career-high 28 minutes, Fletcher set new career highs with 16 points and 10 rebounds and also had four steals.

“Cam kind of plays within his personality,” Hamilton said.

“We have some guys that are growing and maturing that probably need to play a little bit more out of their personality in order for us to be successful right now with who we are.”

RayQuan Evans scored 13 points for the Seminoles with four rebounds and four assists.

The slowest of starts

From the opening minutes of the Seminoles’ game at UNC, it seemed clear how long of an afternoon they would be in for.

The Tar Heels opened up an 18-0 lead before FSU finally scored its first point on a Tanor Ngom free throw nearly seven minutes into the game.

FSU’s first made field goal didn’t come until eight minutes and 28 seconds into the game on a Fletcher layup after the Seminoles missed their first 10 shots.

Once UNC opened a 20-point lead at 21-1, the deficit was never less than 20 points the rest of the way.

The Seminoles finished the first half shooting 30% from the floor with nearly as many turnovers (8) as they had made baskets (9).

Meanwhile, the Tar Heels shot 74.2% from the floor and 75% from three-point range in the first half. It was UNC’s best shooting percentage over an entire half since 2018.

“(UNC has) been shooting the ball very well. They’re not going to miss unless we make them. We’ve got to force them to miss by contesting their shots and getting them out of rhythm. I didn’t think we did that in the first half…” Hamilton said.

“On the offensive end, it seemed as though we were somewhat lethargic, the ball wasn’t moving.”

Things regressed far closer to the norm in the second half. FSU shot 45.9% after halftime while UNC shot 38.9% in the second half. However, the damage had definitely been done by then.

Another FSU injury

Things were already bad for the Seminoles depth-wise entering Saturday’s game. They were without the services of redshirt seniors Malik Osborne (ankle) and Anthony Polite (wrist) as well as starting center Naheem McLeod (hand).

But things managed to get even worse against the Tar Heels when leading scorer Caleb Mills went down with an ankle injury midway through the first half. Mills stayed down on the court for an extended period and did not return to the game, playing just seven first-half minutes and scoring no points.

Hamilton said after the game that Mills got an x-ray and there doesn’t appear to be a fracture. Instead, it would appear to be a really badly sprained ankle. He said he doubts he’ll be available for the Seminoles’ next game on Tuesday.

‘A home away from home’: Inside Matthew Cleveland’s journey to Florida State basketball

More: ‘Weatherman’ Harrison Prieto balancing increased role with FSU basketball, master’s degree

Mills entered Saturday’s game averaging 13.3 points per game this season, nearly three more points per game than any other Seminole.

“No doubt we missed Caleb because he’s been a guy who goes out and produces points for us. He’s not a guy who has to score off the catch, he can create off the dribble,” Hamilton said.

“But more than anything else, his skills create offense for his teammates. We missed that.”

Should Mills miss any more time, FSU would be without three of its top four scorers who are averaging a combined 33 points per game this season.

Up Next

The Seminoles are back at home Tuesday. They will look to snap their losing streak when they host the Clemson Tigers at 7 p.m.

Reach Curt Weiler at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.

No one covers the ‘Noles like the Tallahassee Democrat. Subscribe using the link at the top of the page and never miss a moment.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: North Carolina routs Florida State to hand Seminoles sixth straight loss