TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As the Florida State crowd rushed the court Saturday, only North Carolina’s walk-ons were there to see it.
With 14.2 seconds left of the most lopsided defeat of the Roy Williams era, Williams and most of the rest of the team walked to the locker room, shaking hands with Florida State’s coaches in front of their bench along the way. The Seminoles blew out third-ranked UNC 90-57 at the Tucker Center.
After the game, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said the early departure was his idea.
“I want to be clear to one thing: I wanted very much for Roy to take his team off the floor, so that they wouldn’t get caught up in the excitement and jubilance of fans,’’ Hamilton said. “It wasn’t a negative on his part, or anything disrespectful. As a matter of fact, I suggested he do that. Because it’s college basketball, and the students and fans get excited … I just thought it would be in the best interest for all of us, with 15 seconds to go and us up like we were … I didn’t see anything wrong with that.”
It made for a strange scene after a performance during which UNC posted a season-high in turnovers (22) and field-goal percentage defense (48.4), while recording a season-low eight assists. More than one Tar Heel player called the loss "embarrassing."
Williams, after the game, said he wanted to make clear “that I was not trying to embarrass Florida State by pretending that they could not control the crowd. That’s not what I was trying to do at all. I was just trying to protect our team. We had an ugly incident at Las Vegas and one of our female managers got knocked down.”
Williams was referring the his team’s 90-80 loss to UNLV in Las Vegas in November, when opposing fans also rushed the court.
“I’m between a rock and a hard place, because I love to be able to see college kids celebrate,'' Williams said. "I have feelings for that, as well, but I also think it’s dangerous for the visiting team trying to get off the court. ... I went to talk to Leonard, and I’d already talked to one of the referees when he was over there, and it was almost Leonard’s suggestion.”
Williams added that he hopes the early leave doesn't draw any attention away from FSU’s win, which he called a “great victory.”
“We were just trying to be cautious,’’ Williams said.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.