March 2, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) -- March tipped off exactly the way it needed to if the Florida State men's basketball team wants to go dancing later in the month.
In need of a win to boost its NCAA Tournament chances, FSU beat Georgia Tech, 81-71, Sunday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center. After beating Pittsburgh last weekend, the Seminoles (17-11, 8-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) are now back to .500 in the conference and have strung together back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-January.
The `Noles have won nine consecutive games against the Yellow Jackets (13-15, 4-12).
Florida State accomplished each of those feats on its home court thanks to a balanced offense. FSU shot 52.4 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range while turning the ball over just 14 times. Perhaps most importantly, the Seminoles stayed out of foul trouble.
"We worked very hard at not reaching and grabbing," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We tried not to reach with our hands. ... I thought we did a decent job of contesting without fouling."
Four 'Noles scored in double figures with Okaro White pacing the effort with 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting and much-needed 10-of-11 clip from the free-throw line. White added three blocks, a steal and four rebounds.
Devon Bookert came off the bench to pour in 16 points of his own on a perfect-shooting night by the sophomore guard. Bookert finished 4-of-4 from the field with each of those shots finding net from 3-point distance. Aaron Thomas and Ian Miller also scored 15 points apiece.
For the first time in his career, Montay Brandon registered double-digits rebounds in back-to-back games. After notching 12 boards in FSU's win at Pittsburgh last week, Brandon grabbed 12 more against the Yellow Jackets while scoring seven points.
"Montay continues to rebound well for a guard and that was huge for us," Hamilton said.
Boris Bojanovsky had seven points as well, while adding four blocks and five rebounds. The Seminoles finished with 35 rebounds compared to Georgia Tech's 36. The Yellow Jackets actually won the points-in-the-paint battle, too, 34-24.
"It was a collective effort by the guys tonight," Hamilton said.
Robert Carter, Jr. led the way for Georgia Tech with 20 points and Trae Golden had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Georgia Tech was just 3-of-16 from long range.
The `Noles built a 13-point lead with 12:24 left in the game when Miller's cross-court pass was corralled by Bookert and then drilled from 3-point distance. But Georgia Tech chipped at that advantage and cut the score to single digits before Brandon's leaping put-back turned the scoreboard to 55-44.
Brandon then hauled in a defensive rebound on the opposite end and Bookert hit a 3-pointer in transition and White's bucket gave the Seminoles their largest lead of the night, 60-44.
A furious effort helped the Yellow Jackets trim the deficit to 78-67 with a minute to play but Miller's fast-break slam brought the crowd to its feat and halted any hope for some late-game heroics by the visiting team.
The Seminoles had an 11-0 first-half run and then a 20-3 run at the end of the half but only took a 34-31 lead into the break. FSU shot 45.8 percent in that opening frame, including a 57.1-percent mark from 3-point range.
The Yellow Jackets made just 12 of their 33 shots in the first half.
FSU's work continues on the road with a Tuesday-night game at Boston College. The March 4 contest at Conte Forum tips off at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
"We've got to go on the road and gear up again," Hamilton said. "[Boston College] is a team you have to take seriously."