Nov. 21, 2013
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The last time Florida State and Virginia Commonwealth met, the Seminoles lost in a matchup of attacking defensive styles in a ragged, fast-paced affair that saw VCU trudge away as the survivor.
The rematch featured the same brand of basketball on both sides. Only this time, it was Florida State that proved to be better at it.
It sets up a semifinal matchup with Michigan, which beat Long Beach State earlier Thursday.
“We don’t ever go into a game trying to set a tempo, we just try to be who we are and take what the defensive gives us,” Seminole coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We didn’t go into the game saying we wanted to have an 85- or an 86-point game, what we wanted to do was try to come up with a way to win the game.
“I think both of us, the talent that we have made for a very fast-paced game.”
The Seminoles (4-0) have scored at least 80 points in each of their games. Montay Brandon added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Miller’s 22 points was a career-high and his third straight game in double-figures. He said cutting down on the turnovers is a work in progress.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve been having about 20 turnovers a game,” he said. “So it’s just something that we just got to keep working on. But we just keep finding ways to get back on defense … we just got to see what we did wrong and try to fix it.
“We’ll learn. We’re still young and we’re still finding ourselves.”
Treveon Graham had 14 points to lead the Rams (3-1), who were denied their first 4-0 start since the 1993-94 season.
Florida State lost in overtime to Virginia Commonwealth in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2011 NCAA tournament. There would be no repeat this time as the Seminoles took control late in the first half and then used an 11-0 spurt to open the second half.
VCU also came in averaging more than 80 points per game and it made for a pace that was rapid from the outset.
The Rams couldn’t make shots, though, shooting just 29 percent for the game. They trailed by 30 late in the second half.
“I thought, for us, this was a wakeup call and realization that we just can’t be who we want to be — we have to make it happen,” coach Shaka Smart said. “It was a classic case of allowing our offense to affect our defense … there’s going to be nights like that, but the good teams stick to the process.”
The Seminoles played with more control early, and got a dunk off a set inbounds play just before halftime, then kept that momentum coming out of the locker room.
Rams’ guard Rob Brandenberg, who finished with 10 points, said there was a snowball effect once the Seminoles got going that the Rams couldn’t stop.
“I just feel like at the beginning of the game things were going our way offensively — we were cohesive as a unit,” he said. “It kind of all went downhill from there.”
Florida State led by 12 at the break, holding VCU to just 2 of 11 from the 3-point line and 10 of 33 shooting from the field.
The Seminoles had 13 first-half turnovers, but got 14 points from their starting front court to help keep the Rams out of transition.
VCU’s full-court pressure did force FSU into mistakes, but its poor shooting kept them from capitalizing.
As well as FSU played Thursday, Hamilton said he thinks they can play better.
Hamilton said that with the quick turnaround there’s no way to craft any special system for Michigan, but added “we’ve got our hands full.”
But he said the Wolverines’ run to the championship game put them on FSU’s radar and garnered their respect already.
“They’re going to do what they’re going to do; I’m not sure what anybody know what we’re going to do.”