LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — Good basketball teams find ways to win by any means necessary.
For the No. 14-ranked Florida State Seminoles, tonight’s victory was a matter of grit, determination and a friendly bounce.
The Seminoles defeated No. 19 LSU, 79-76, in overtime, in the semifinal of the AdvoCare Invitational on Friday night at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.
They’ll meet defending national champion Villanova in the tournament title game on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Noles (5-0) took a late lead behind sophomore Mfiondu Kabengele’s corner 3-pointer with under a second left in overtime. The seemed to not only hit the rim, but also hang in the air for seconds before dropping in.
Kabengele finished the game with 15 points and four rebounds on 5-12 shooting. He shined in overtime, scoring five of the team’s 11 overtime points and hauling down two key offensive rebounds.
“Of course we drew up that last play for Mfiondu to take a jump shot deep in the corner,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton told reporters with a laugh. “That’s the shot we wanted all along.”
The victory wasn’t always well in sight as both teams struggled to pull away throughout regulation. The Tigers managed to lead for 29 minutes in the contest, including leading by nine with 3:05 remaining after a 3-point jump shot by junior Sklyer Mays.
Junior guard Trent Forrest sparked a Florida State run with 2:04 remaining, kicking to Kabengele who hit a 3-pointer to bring the game to 65-59.
A few possessions later, sophomore M.J. Walker drained his fourth 3-pointer of the night to bring the game to 67-66 with 18 seconds remaining.
Walker led the Seminoles throughout the contest with an arsenal of jump shots. The Jonesboro, Ga., native scored a team-high 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, which included career-high five from 3-point range.
After LSU sophomore guard Tremont Waters hit a free throw to extend the Tigers’ lead to 68-66, the Noles called a timeout.
Out of the break, Forrest took the inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast to finger roll the game-tying layup and force overtime.
Forrest continued to stake his claim as one of the top all-around players in the ACC, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a career-high tying four steals. Forrest earned his 13th career game of at least five points, five rebounds and five assists in a single game.
Florida State came out firing in the overtime period, taking a quick five-point lead behind a layup by Kabengele and 3-point shot by Walker.
Once LSU tied the game at 73 with 1:51 left in the extra period, senior forward Terance Mann took over. Mann scored the game’s next three points by a matter of free throws, while also grabbing a pivotal offensive rebound.
The senior captain finished the game with nine points and 12 rebounds, marking the second time this season he finished with double-digit boards.
Throughout the contest, the Seminoles used physicality to wrestle the Tigers. The Noles outrebounded LSU 43-30, including a 22-4 margin on the offensive boards. Coach Leonard Hamilton’s “junkyard dog” defense also produced 18 turnovers and 11 steals.
“Our guys, we’re strong in character,” Hamilton said. “I thought they grew up a little bit tonight.”
With a win on Friday night, the Seminoles continued their dominance over Southeastern Conference competition. FSU’s seniors are now 7-0 against the SEC, and the Seminoles have not lost to a team from the conference since the 2013-2014 season.
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