Brandon leads Florida State over Virginia Tech 73-65
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Florida State's reputation for stingy defense has long been noted in ACC circles, but the Seminoles relied on another, more unlikely, weapon against Virginia Tech.
The Seminoles tied a season high with eight 3-pointers, and Montay Brandon scored 16 points to lead Florida State to a 73-65 victory over the Hokies on Saturday.
Brandon paced a balanced Seminoles attack that saw 10 players score. He hit 6 of 9 from the floor, including a 3-pointer, as Florida State (13-11, 5-6 ACC) shot 8 of 18 from beyond the 3-point arc (44.4 percent).
Six different Seminoles made 3-pointers, including Devon Bookert, who made a team-high three. Florida State came into the game ranked next to last in the ACC in 3-point percentage (28.0).
''Their philosophy was to pack the lane in, and we couldn't drive the ball,'' Brandon said. ''They forced us to make shots. It's a good thing we made them (Saturday).''
The Seminoles played well defensively - they held the Hokies to just 40.4 percent (21 of 52) from the floor. But the story was their performance on the offensive end.
They shot 54.3 percent (25 of 46) for the game - their best shooting performance since hitting 58.6 percent against North Florida on Dec. 17.
''Tech does a very good job defensively,'' Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. ''As a result of watching the film, we have a healthy respect for what they do, and because of the respect we have for them, I thought our guys did a much better job of executing. We executed on the offensive end, and we were able to get some open looks.''
Florida State, which won for the third time in four games and beat Virginia Tech for the eighth time in the past 11 meetings, led 31-26 at halftime and pulled away in the second half. A 17-6 run, punctuated by a Brandon dunk with 7:29 left, gave the Seminoles a 59-42 lead - their biggest of the game.
Virginia Tech (9-14, 1-9 ACC) tried to rally. The Hokies used an 8-0 run to cut the Seminoles' lead to 63-54 on a dunk by Shane Henry with 3:46 remaining. The teams then traded 3-pointers, but Florida State pushed the lead to 68-57 on two Brandon free throws with 1:44 left, and Tech got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
Florida State shot 58.3 percent (14 of 24) in the second half.
''They made six out of 10 shots in the second half, so they were on a run for 20 minutes,'' Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. ''They made five out of 10 shots in the first 20 minutes. We didn't play hard enough and didn't do a good enough job of executing what we needed to do to give ourselves a chance.
''I think they're good. They've shot 50 percent in three out of the four halves we played against them. We struggled to guard them. We struggled to keep them off the glass. We didn't get beat quite as bad on the glass. We only got beat by nine (32-23) instead of 20, so we improved a little bit. Part of that, though, is they shot a little better in this game.''
Brandon hadn't scored in double figures for the Seminoles in four of their past five games. But in addition to hitting 6 of 9 from the floor, he also made 3 of 5 from the free-throw line and grabbed a team-high six rebounds - three on the offensive end. He scored 11 of his 16 in the second half.
''We started running our offense more fluidly,'' Brandon said. ''In the first half, we were breaking it off a little bit, so in the second half, we made some adjustments. We were looking for the big men rolling or the skip pass because the lanes were so packed. That allowed us to get some easy opportunities on the offensive end.''
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the Seminoles' second-leading scorer (13.9 ppg), had 12 points, while Bookert added 10 points. Rathan-Mayes scored 22 in the teams' first meeting, an 86-75 Florida State victory.
Virginia Tech lost for the 10th time in 11 games - four of them by three points or less. Ahmed Hill and Adam Smith each scored 19 points for the Hokies.
Florida State: Florida State won an ACC road game for just the second time this season (at Clemson on Jan. 19). . The Seminoles have won on three of their past five visits to Virginia Tech. . Hamilton is five wins away from surpassing J.K. Kennedy as the school's all-time leader in men's basketball coaching victories. . Florida State, which leads the ACC in blocked shots in conference games (4.9), had nine blocks against the Hokies. . Rathan-Mayes has now scored in double figures in 11 of the Seminoles' past 13 games. . Rathan-Mayes didn't hit his first shot until 51 seconds remained in the first half and made just 3 of 8 for the game.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies played without guard Will Johnston, who underwent surgery on his elbow last Monday and is out indefinitely. . Virginia Tech only dressed nine players. . Hill's 19 points were a career high. His previous career high was 18 points, which came against Presbyterian on Dec. 27. . Hill's four 3-pointers also were a career high, surpassing the three he hit at Wake Forest last Saturday.
Florida State returns home for a game against Duke on Monday.
Virginia Tech plays at home Monday against Georgia Tech.