A thin margin for error and a steady diet of whistles put the Florida State men’s basketball team at the wrong end of a back-and-forth affair at Pittsburgh.
Trent Forrest scored a game-high 19 points and Devin Vassell added 14, but the Seminoles were undone by a flood of Pitt free throws in a 63-61 defeat at the Petersen Events Center.
A missed free throw in the waning seconds gave Forrest a chance to tie or win the game, but his jumper at the other end missed and the Seminoles couldn’t get up another shot before time expired.
Florida State (0-1, 0-1 ACC) led by as many as nine points in the second half, but the Panthers rallied back thanks to those free throws – they shot 31 total – and some timely perimeter shooting.
Pittsburgh made 9 of 26 3-point attempts, five of which came in the second half. The Panthers took the lead on a triple from Justin Champagnie with 4:37 to play and never trailed again.
FSU, meanwhile, shot 6-of-20 from distance and 21-53 (39.6 percent) overall.
The Seminoles got an encouraging contribution from Vassell – a 6-of-7 shooting night that included two 3-pointers – but, in keeping with the theme of the evening, it was tough not to wonder what he might have done were fouls not an issue.
He picked up two within the game’s first 90 seconds and spent the rest of the first half on the bench. And Vassell was hardly the only one to come under the official’s thumb. The Seminoles were whistled for 27 personal fouls – compared to 16 against Pittsburgh – and saw RaiQuan Gray, Malik Osborne and newcomer Balsa Koprivica all foul out.
When Vassell did return, he made the most of his outing. The sophomore began the second half with a 3-pointer that broke a 25-25 tie and went on to score 11 of FSU’s first 13 points in the period.
Florida State led, 40-31, after an Osborne layup and had a chance for more after a quick defensive stop. But Anthony Polite (eight points, four rebounds) missed a 3-point shot and Pitt then launched a 10-0 run over the course of about three minutes.
Three Panthers – Xavier Johnson, Terrell Brown and Ryan Murphy – score 13 points each.
Florida State’s Osborne, making his in-game debut after sitting out last season, scored two points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, although the Panthers finished with a slight advantage (37-35) on the glass.
Having suffered a loss in their season opener for the first time in seven years, the Seminoles must bounce back quickly. They’ll visit No. 6 Florida on Sunday (1 p.m.), looking to extend their five-game winning streak over the Gators.