When that didn't seem to work, Coach L employed plan B: turn the 'Canes into a tough zone team that still struggled to put the ball in the hoop. This wasn't by design, but with a close loss at #2 Syracuse and a win at North Carolina the 'Canes seemed to be stabilizing their early season sea legs.
How would the 'Canes metamorphosis play out against a gigantic FSU team led by former 'Canes coach Leonard Hamilton? Would the 'Canes pesky zone give FSU problems?
The zone did its job but it was the 'Canes anemic offense that would see FSU start to pull away toward the latter part of the first half. Without an offensive explosion by Donovan Kirk, the 'Canes would have been out of the contest by halftime.As it stood, the 'Canes played just enough gritty zone and made just enough shots to take their first lead of the game with just under 3 minutes left in the half. With just over 1 minute left, Rion Brown hit a big three to extend the 'Canes unlikely lead to two. Kirk had a monster block just before the half to galvanize the crowd. Kirk then sent the BUC into a frenzy with a jumper off a Lecomte dish as the half ended with the 'Canes up 28-24.
When the second frame started, FSU stormed back to take a 1-pt lead.er a time. Then it was time for Rion Brown to go off. The senior drilled back-to-back 3's to give the 'Canes a 5-pt lead - their biggest of the game. With just 10 minutes to go, the 'Canes led 43-38.
FSU wasn't going to go away so easy and Hamilton's squad took a 2-pt lead with 4 minutes left. Then another big three by Rion Brown gave the 'Canes the slimmest of leads, 51-50.
A missed dunk by a struggling Garrius Adams led to Jekiri fouling out, two FTs by FSU, and a 'Canes 3-pt deficit with time winding down. FSU extended the lead to 57-51 on a Ian Miller 3-ball. With 1-minute left and a growing deficit, 'Canes fans headed for the parking lot.
The Bottom Line: Watching the 'Canes play zone this year has been an interesting study of one of the premiere coaches in college basketball. Larranaga is a die-hard man-to-man devotee who thought about zone the way a power pitcher thinks about his 3rd or 4th best pitch. Looking back can you remember a time during Coach Haith's tenure (a zone devotee) that the 'Canes played zone at this level? I don't think I can.