Monday night's non-conference matchup between Charleston Southern and Florida State was a classic case of inside strength versus outside shooting.
As expected, Florida State's size and strength inside was better than Charleston Southern's perimeter shooting game as the Seminoles improved to 9-3 on the season with a 67-59 win over visiting Buccaneers in Tallahassee, Fla.
CSU dropped to 5-7 on the season, with five losses coming by eight points or less.
Aaron Thomas led Florida State with a career-high 19 points, while the Seminoles' leading scorer for the season, Ian Miller, added 15.
Juniors Arlon Harper and Paul Gombwer each scored 11 points to pace CSU. Saah Nimley and Matt Kennedy added eight points each.
The Seminoles' first 18 points of the game came inside the paint and FSU finished with 44 points in the paint. The Seminoles outrebounded CSU, 36-30, and held CSU to 36 percent shooting.
"We competed at a very high level and we competed to win," said CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh. "Florida State is a very talented, long, athletic basketball team, but I thought our players followed the game plan and gave us a chance to win late. We were unable to make a few plays late when we had a chance to make it a one-possession game, and Florida State was able to make a few plays. But, we competed hard and we expected to win."
CSU came into the game as the top 3-point shooting team in the country at nearly 12 makes per game from beyond the arc, and stayed close early with four 3s to trail, 18-17, with 6:13 to play in the opening half.
Charleston Southern finished the game with 10 3-pointers on 29 attempts. The Bucs also were hurt by 17 turnovers, including 11 in the first half.
Florida State opened up a 39-25 lead early into the second half, but the Bucs clawed back to within nine at 51-42 with 8:15 remaining in the game.
CSU's last gasp came with less than four minutes left. Tyquan Bitting's dunk on an offensive rebound cut the FSU lead to 58-50, and Harper followed seconds later with a steal and layup to trim the margin to 58-52 with 3:05 remaining.
Allie Fullah made two free throws with 1:49 to pull within six at 61-55, and Nimley made one of two freebies for a 61-56 deficit with 1:20 to play.
FSU, however, got a dunk from Boris Bojonovsky with 45 seconds left and Devin Bookert's two free throws upped the margin to nine with 37 seconds left.
CSU's final non-conference game will be at home Saturday against Columbia International University. The Bucs open Big South Conference play on January 8th at home against Coastal Carolina.
"I think our early schedule has hardened this team. I think we're a tougher basketball team mentally and physically," said Radebaugh. "Now we have to continue to grow and improve, and we have to continue to compete at the level we competed at tonight."