For the most part, Florida State’s 2014-15 season has been a disappointment. Returning four starters from a 22-win NIT semifinalist, Leonard Hamilton had high hopes that this year’s Seminoles would return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three season, which at the time was the school’s fourth consecutive trip to the Big Dance. But early injuries and a big dismissal have hurt the team’s progress, and with a 10-10 record, meaningful postseason play does not look likely. However, there may now be a ray of light at the end of the tunnel for this Florida State squad. Despite Saturday’s 78-74 loss to North Carolina, a star appears to be emerging in Tallahassee.
Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, Florida State fell behind by double-figures in each half, but both times rallied to make the game close. The driving force behind each comeback was Seminoles’ guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who put on a performance for the ages, becoming only the fourth opponent to score 35 or more points in the Smith Center’s 29-year history. Rathan-Mayes joins a select group that includes a pair of two-time ACC Player of the Year award winners, Len Bias and J.J. Redick, who each tallied 35 in the Smith Center in their senior seasons. The all-time opponent scoring record belongs to LaSalle’s Lionel Simmons, who scored 38 points in the new building in January 1988. All Simmons did in college was score 3,217 points (third all-time) and win a NPOY Award in 1990. So, you get the point – not bad company to keep. The redshirt freshman’s 35 points is easily the most by an ACC rookie this year, and ties Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas for the league-high this season by any player. This performance by Rathan-Mayes did not totally come out of nowhere, as he came in to this contest ranked among the ACC’s top-15 scorers in conference games.