In a game that was expected to be defined by defense, Xavier Rathan-Mayes gave Florida State just enough offense.
The Seminoles needed it – before their second-round game became very much about defense. Clemson’s tenacious press in the closing moments whittled a 20-point lead to virtually nothing, but the Seminoles had just enough cushion to hang on for a 76-73 victory.
Thanks to Rathan-Mayes, a flashy-quick freshman from Canada who struck at will for much of the game.
His 30 points set a Florida State record for scoring in an ACC tournament game. He was 11-for-19, including 5-for-9 from three-point range.
Rathan-Mayes said he simply took what the defense gave him.
“We moved the basketball and we took good shots,” said Rathan-Mayes, who was central to the movement.
He seemed to be involved everywhere, with or without the ball.
“He’s always moving,” Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame said. “You have to always know where he’s at. We didn’t do as good of job as we needed to of that.”
Rathan-Mayes, guarded mostly by senior Rod Hall, who himself scored a career-high 25 points, went on a tear in the second half – scoring 13 points in little more than six minutes. The Seminoles’ lead grew to 57-37.
“He made threes, which he doesn’t always do,” Brownell said. “When he makes threes, it makes it doubly tough. Some of those were guarded shots."
Blossomgame said: “Early on, we couldn’t contain him at all. He’s very quick off the ball screens, he’s very quick with the ball and he makes contested shots. It’s just hard to guard a player like that.”
The Seminoles, who emphasized reducing turnovers from two previous down-to-the-wire meetings with the Tigers, did that for a while. They had only five at halftime but turned it over 10 times in the final 8:30 against the Tigers’ all-out press.
“The last couple of practices we had a huge emphasis on turnovers,” Rathan-Mayes said. “I think we had 40 in the last two games. We did a good job of scoring today, we just need to do a better job of handling the basketball.”