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No. 19 Florida State squeaks by Clemson, 76-74

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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton was glad to see his players smiling, laughing and celebrating a win on the road. It had not happened too often for the 19th-ranked Seminoles in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season.

“They were very, very happy in the locker room,” said a relieved Hamilton, whose team rallied after leading most of the way to defeat Clemson 76-74 on Saturday.

The Seminoles (23-6, 11-5) came into Littlejohn Coliseum just 2-5 on the road in league play, including losses in their past two such games, at Notre Dame and at Pittsburgh.

But Xavier Rathan-Mayes hit the go-ahead basket with 1:22 left and Florida State hung on.

“Knowing we can get down on the road and win in tough situations and play the way we did (today) is definitely optimistic for us,” said Rathan-Mayes, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half.

Jonathan Isaac of Florida State blocked Shelton Mitchell’s drive with 11 seconds left after Rathan-Mayes’ final hoop. After Trent Forrest made a free throw for the Seminoles, Marcquise Reed came up short on a mid-range jumper with 5 seconds to go as the Seminoles held on to win their 23rd game in the regular season for the first time since 2008-09.

Florida State kept pace in the Atlantic Coast Conference race, remaining two games behind league leader North Carolina entering the final week of the season.

“This is a very important win for us,” Hamilton said. “It keeps pace and gives us the opportunity to control our destiny.”

It was the latest in a string of near misses for Clemson (14-14, 4-12), which fell to 1-9 in ACC games decided by six points or less. The Tigers’ last five ACC losses came by a combined 12 points.

Florida State looked ready to stretch this one out after Forrest had a basket and two foul shots to put the Seminoles up 69-64 with 4:19 to go. But Jaron Blossomgame answered with a basket and Mitchell hit a 3-pointer to tie things once more.

Blossomgame finished with a game-high 24 points, his 12th game scoring 20 or more this season.

Isaac had 14 points and Dwayne Bacon added 12 for Florida State.

THE BIG PICTURE

Florida State: The Seminoles are one of the ACC’s best teams, but they struggle on the road, winning just two of their first seven games away from Tallahassee. They lost their past two on the road at Notre Dame and at Pitt before coming here. Florida State tapped into those struggles at Clemson, getting outscored 16-10 in the final 7 minutes of the opening half to lead just 38-37. The Seminoles were up on the Tigers 51-25 at halftime in their matchup three weeks ago at Florida State, a 109-61 victory.

Clemson: The Tigers have sought all ACC season for a signature win and put themselves in position to do it once more. Clemson hit 15 first-half free throws and shot 50 percent from the field. Still, it was not enough to keep from getting swept by Florida State for the first time in four seasons with another close defeat.

COLD BACON

Bacon, Florida State’s leading scorer, was kept beneath his season’s average of 16.8 points by the Tigers. Bacon went just 3 of 14 overall and 1 of 6 from 3-point range. It was the fifth time in the past six games that Bacon shot 40 percent or worse from the field.

DEMORALIZED TIGERS

Clemson’s run of almosts seems to have no end this season. Tigers center Sidy Djitte, who had 12 points and nine rebounds, said the team will fight off the disappointment and bounce back for whatever is left of the season. “If we’ve got two games, we’re going to keep fighting for two games,” he said.

UP NEXT

Florida State heads to No. 10 Duke on Tuesday night.

Clemson continues its home stand to end the regular season, facing North Carolina State on Wednesday night.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

VIDEO: Jay-Z’s nephew posterizes nation’s No. 1 recruit Marvin Bagley III

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Nahziah Carter is an unsigned 6-foot-6 wing in the Class of 2017.

He’s also Jay-Z’s nephew, and he just so happened to posterize Marvin Bagley III — the clearcut No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018 — while Hova was in the stands watching him.

NCAA denies extra-year request by NC State guard Henderson

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.

Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.

The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.

Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.