SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team endured its first letdown at home this season, falling to the Florida State Seminoles 85-69 on Tuesday night. The Orange (13-6, 4-4) competed for 32 minutes before getting worn down by the depth of the Seminoles (12-7, 6-2). In a game between the ACC’s two top performing benches in point production, Florida State’s out-scored Syracuse’s 29-16.
Adrian Autry went with his usual starting five of Judah Mintz, JJ Starling, Chris Bell, Justin Taylor and Maliq Brown. Mintz and Starling opened up the scoring early for Syracuse, which held a 6-5 lead at the first media timeout. Benny Williams checked in first off the bench against a taller, more athletic Florida State team. Quadir Copeland checked in after and received plaudits for his recent conduct — loud cheers reverberated throughout the dome from the Syracuse fanbase. He was whistled for two quick fouls and had to return to the bench. Kyle Cuffe replaced him and scored on a left-handed drive on his first possession.
Just after, Jaylan Gainey scored for Florida State and Benny Williams had a follow-up layup as the Seminoles led 16-15 at the second media timeout. Florida State scored back-to-back buckets as Jamir Watkins knocked down a three and Gainey finished off a lob to put the Seminoles up 21-15.
From there, Mintz threw down a raucous slam in transition which sparked a 10-3 Syracuse run. Justin Taylor, fighting hard down low for position despite being outsized, had Baba Miller go over his back for the Seminoles’ seventh team foul. Taylor earned a trip to the line and knocked down two, which started a trend of FSU fouls. Starling scored on an and-one in transition and Mintz drew another foul. Cuffe had an aggressive take in a head ups transition drive and — you guessed it — was fouled. He made both to trim the FSU lead to two. Maliq Brown cleaned up on an offensive rebound and put-back to tie the game at 26.
It was helter-skelter for the rest of the half. Florida State showed press and forced a 10 second violation on Mintz as Syracuse couldn’t call timeout in time. Sensing the tenor of the game and FSU’s proclivity to foul, Syracuse opportunistically pushed the ball in transition every chance it had. After some erratic play by both sides, Syracuse went into the half with a 36-35 lead after two Starling free throws. Peter Carey checked in for the last defensive possession and a last-second, Gordon Hayward-type heave before the halftime buzzer was missed.
FSU had 14 fouls at the half to Syracuse’s nine, but SU was just 11-19 from the line. Syracuse led the rebounding battle 24-18.
Out of the half, Miller scored first for FSU but Mintz found Brown alone down low for an easy reverse lay. Then after a Brown steal, Mintz had his transition layup goal-tended and the Orange led 40-37. Leonard Hamilton called timeout.
Mintz drew back to back fouls on Jalen Warley and then on Miller, who picked up his third foul with 15:57 to play. Mintz made all four and gave Syracuse a 46-39 lead but De’Ante Green answered with a three point play.
Syracuse found itself in a bit of its own foul trouble as Brown picked up his third with 14:26 to play. He was replaced by Copeland as Williams moved to the five. With Brown in foul trouble, Autry went four guards as Mintz, Starling, Cuffe and Copeland all played together with Williams at the five. It was back-and-forth through that stretch as Mintz and Starling continued to put pressure on the defense and create contact, daring the officials to blow the whistle. But Primo Spears drilled a three and Jamir Watkins hammered home a dunk to keep the game close.
Syracuse started to wear down. With its rim protection diminished, back-to-back dunks by Florida State gave the edge to Hamilton’s team at 57-54. Brown checked back into the game with three fouls at the ten minute mark.
Florida State took control of the game from there as Cameron Corhen and Watkins scored again down low and in transition. Mintz answered with a thunderous transition slam but once again Watkins scored at the rim to put Florida State up 65-60. Copeland picked up his third foul with 7:20 to go.
Mintz did all he could to will his team by scoring the ball, but it wasn’t quite enough down the stretch as Syracuse couldn’t get stops or scores it needed to make a run.
Syracuse went 2-3 zone, but to no avail as Darin Green Jr. connected on a corner three to give FSU an eight point lead. Miller picked up his fourth foul with 5:48 to go, the team’s sixth foul of the second half. He scored on the ensuing possession though and FSU opened up a 72-62 lead with 5:26 to play. Autry called timeout.
Syracuse showed press, but wasn’t able to turn the Seminoles over. The Orange weren’t able to come up with loose balls and struggled to stay connected as a team down double digits. Down 15 with over two minutes to play, fans filed for the exits. With Syracuse stuck at 69 points and the Syracuse band chanting, “We want tacos!,” one last jumpshot went awry as Syracuse faltered down the stretch, losing at home for the first time this season.
Florida State finished 32-65 from the floor and 6-17 from three while Syracuse was 23-52 from the floor and 1-14. The Orange turned it over 16 times to the Seminoles’ nine.
Final foul count: Florida State 25, Syracuse 19. Syracuse was 22-33 from the free throw line. Florida State was 15-20.
Mintz led all scorers with 28 points on 9-14 shooting and 10-15 from the foul line. Starling was the only other Syracuse player in double-figures with 10 points. Watkins scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Florida State.
Syracuse wraps up a three game home stand this Saturday against N.C. State. That game tips at 7 p.m. from the JMA Wireless Dome and airs on the ACC Network.
(Note: Teasing a new promotion, Chick-fil-A is giving away free chicken sandwiches when opponents miss two straight free throws. That happened before the first media timeout.)