Florida State Head Coach Leonard Hamilton has coached in more than a few rivalry games between the Seminoles and the Miami Hurricanes. He has been on the winning side and the losing side from both benches.
Saturday he was on the losing side as his Seminoles fell to the Hurricanes at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, 72-59. Florida State fell to 10-5 and 0-3 in the ACC.
While Miami is in Hamilton’s past, the Hurricanes are very much in Sheldon McClellan’s present. The 6’4″ senior guard from Houston scored 20 of his 21 points after halftime to lead the Hurricanes.
McClellan hit from outside, scored at the rim on a variety of layups and joined his teammates in playing solid defense throughout the game. The Seminoles were held to 23 points below their scoring average of 82 points per game.
McClellan looked unlikely to be the star of the game at halftime. He took only four shots and missed them all, while converting one of two free throws.
“I thought he had some good looks in the first half, they just didn’t go down for him,” said Hurricanes’ Coach Jim Larranaga. “In the second half, he just made his first, had a beautiful driving layup, and then once he got it going, it was nonstop.”
Twice in the early portion of the second half, Florida State tried to get back in the game, but McClellan had an answer. His driving layup restored an 8-point lead and when FSU narrowed the gap to 3 points, McClellan again got to the rim to stem the tide.
A 3-pointer with 12:47 left gave Miami their first double-digit lead at 44-33. Another 3-pointer and a spectacular dunk within 30 seconds of each other gave the Hurricanes their largest lead of 17 points.
McClellan was a perfect 7 for 7 in the second half and was the best player on the court, but had help from his experienced teammates such as Tonye Jekiri, Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton. That fact was not lost on Hamilton.
“When they have five guys at every position who are capable of hurting you and they have great guys who are penetrating, you have to help with those guys getting to the basket,” said Hamilton. “(McClellan) had some good looks and he made us pay.”
Hamilton wished McClellan had stayed closer to home. After two solid years at the University of Texas, he transferred to Miami and made an immediate impact.
After sitting out a year, he started all 38 games last year and 14.5 points. McClellan averaged 16 points in two games against FSU. Miami and Florida State split their two games last season.
If FSU is to gain a split this season, they will first need to shoot better (35 percent on Saturday), and stop Miami’s penetration. This no-love-lost rivalry continues in Tallahassee on Valentine’s Day.
Before that, the Seminoles try to avoid going 0-4 in the ACC on Wednesday when they visit North Carolina State. Miami (13-1) goes for their third straight ACC win on Tuesday at Virginia.