'Noles hold off Wolf Pack
RALEIGH, N.C. — Florida State started well, played from in front and showed the toughness to answer every spurt North Carolina State could manage.
The Seminoles’ reward? The relief that comes with that first Atlantic Coast Conference victory.
Malik Beasley scored 22 points to help the Seminoles beat the Wolfpack 85-78 on Wednesday night in a matchup of winless league teams.
Devon Bookert added 18 points for the Seminoles (11-5, 1-3), who led just about all night but still had to keep coming up with some timely baskets to stay in control after losses to Clemson, North Carolina and Miami to start league play.
“We weren’t really frustrated,” said Beasley, who also had nine rebounds. “We just knew what we were capable of. We knew we were almost over the hump and now I feel like we’re over it. And our confidence is even better.”
Both teams entered this one at 0-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time since the 2006-07 season, with each staring at its first 0-4 start in more than a decade.
But Beasley, Bookert and freshman Dwayne Bacon each had key second-half baskets to end FSU’s winless start.
“I think we played a little bit tougher,” Bookert said. “We paid attention to detail much more than in previous games.”
Now it’s the Wolfpack (10-7, 0-4) still searching for a first league win with a daunting schedule — at No. 5 North Carolina, at No. 20 Pittsburgh, home against No. 9 Duke — looming in the next 10 days. N.C. State’s last 0-4 ACC start came in the 1996-97 season, according to STATS.
“We have stretches where we’re really good,” fifth-year coach Mark Gottfried said. “We have stretches where we’re not so good. That’s just part of a young group growing up, but you’ve got to grow up at some point.”
Abdul-Malik Abu scored a career-high 21 points to go with 13 rebounds and a career-best six assists to lead N.C. State, while Anthony “Cat” Barber — the ACC’s leading scorer — finished with 16 points.
N.C. State shot 38 percent and went 7 for 26 (27 percent) from 3-point range, but hung around by making 23 of 32 free throws.
N.C. State made its final push with freshman Maverick Rowan shaking off a game’s worth of shooting struggles to bury two 3-pointers — one immediately after an FSU turnover — to bring the Wolfpack within 79-76 with 37.9 seconds left.
But Xavier Rathan-Mayes answered with two free throws, Rowan and Barber each missed 3s on the ensuing possession and FSU hit its last four free throws to hold on.
Florida State: Bacon scored 15 points. ... FSU shot 50 percent and made 9 of 17 3-pointers. ... The Seminoles made 11 of 14 free throws after halftime. ... FSU had 22 second-chance points.
N.C. State: Rowan finished with 22 points. ... The Wolfpack took a 41-40 rebounding advantage. ... N.C. State scored 17 points off turnovers.
FSU fell behind by 10 in the opening 4½ minutes of its ACC opener against Clemson, 19-5 against UNC and by 17 midway through the first half against Miami. FSU had led for a combined 92 seconds of ACC games before Wednesday.
This time, FSU led 38-28 at halftime.
Rowan had made 1 of 6 3s before hitting the two late ones, while Caleb Martin continued his monthlong struggles from outside.
After shooting 12 for 51 on 3s in his last eight games, Martin made 1 of 10 against FSU and finished with seven points on 2-for-13 shooting.
Florida State hosts No. 13 Virginia on Sunday.
N.C. State travels to No. 5 North Carolina on Saturday.