That’s the headline, but the real story was the hours-before-tip-off suspension of leading scorer, Durand Scott.
You hate to play the role of ‘conspiracy theorist’ as a sports enthusiast, but Florida State has now received three ‘gimmies’ from the NCAA timing-wise, with Miami paying a steep price on each occasion.
The first can be chalked up as bad timing and a preventative act by Miami, when suspending safety Ray-Ray Armstrong mid-November, days before a showdown in Tallahassee. The Canes fell to the Noles, 23-19, with a depleted secondary that could’ve used the sophomore’s athleticism.
Armstrong had a ritsy dinner with a lady friend who happened to be publicist and owner of a PR firm that represented professional athletes in charity and foundation ventures. He then Tweeted about the event and for a program already in the midst of an NCAA investigation, UM suspended Armstrong, who was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Late-February, Florida State got a true lucky bounce when center Reggie Johnson was suspended for one of the bigger home games of Miami’s season. The Noles won on the hardwood, in Tallahassee, early February, 64-59.
Amped for a rematch, The BUC was a packed house two weeks later, though UM was forced to play with one hand tied behind it’s back, sans Johnson, who was MVP of the upset at Duke weeks prior.
Miami was able to prevail without Johnson, as players like Scott stepped up. Scott led all Canes with seventeen points in the upset of Florida State and his 33 minutes played were second only to forward Kenny Kadji, who played 37 and scored fifteen.
With the NCAA bid on the line and win over the Seminoles a must, the Canes were without Nole-killer Scott in arguably the season’s biggest game.
Malcolm Grant got his nineteen and Shane Larkin put up sixteen, with leading scorer Scott’s touch was definitely missed. Miami struggled early against Florida State’s man-to-man defense, making only 9-of-32 shots (28.1 percent), giving the Seminoles a 36-27 halftime lead, fueled by seven first-half three-pointers.
Still, the Canes fought hard in the second half and with 5:34 to play, the Canes trailed, 57-52. Miami applied the pressure and with 3:53 remaining, cut the deficit to 62-59, though it was short-lived and Florida State again made it a five-point game within seconds.
Down 64-59, the Canes fouled Michael Snaer, despite please from head coach Jim Larranaga not to get a hand on the 78 percent free throw shooter. Snaer drained both and it was, 66-59, FSU.
From there the comeback attempt was officially through and the Noles rolled. Especially from the charity stripe, where Florida State was a whopping 16-of-18 in the game’s final three minutes.
The loss is frustrating, enough, as is (most-likely) falling a gnat’s eyelash short of a NCAA Tourney big in Coach L’s first season. Miami overcame an early-season injury to Johnson, as well as a handful of random, poorly-timed suspensions, en route to an 18-12 season. The Canes also left a few head-scratching losses on the table. Games that could’ve and should’ve been wins, that would’ve provided the difference between March Madness and the NIT.
The future remains bright with Larranaga in charge, but that’s of little solace the morning after yet another suspension and a season-defining loss. – C.B.