WASHINGTON – With about four minutes to go in Florida State’s 88-66 win over Boston College here in the first round of the ACC men’s basketball tournament, Xavier Rathan-Mayes threw a pretty alley-oop off the backboard and into the waiting hands of Terance Mann.
Smith then easily finished the dunk to put an exclamation point on FSU’s third straight victory and send the Seminoles (19-12) into a second-round rematch with Virginia Tech (18-13) on Wednesday night.
Devon Bookert scored 15 points, Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon each added 13 and FSU got 45 points from its bench on the way to its largest margin of victory in an ACC tournament game.
Even better, coach Leonard Hamilton used 11 players on Tuesday afternoon, and no one logged more minutes than Beasley’s 28. Center Boris Bojanovsky, FSU’s most experienced and reliable post player, played for just 13 minutes.
“The quality of our depth obviously stepped up and allowed us to keep certain guys fresh,” Hamilton said. “In a tournament that you expect to be playing for a while, if you can get everybody involved, it extends your energy level and hopefully it will be a big difference as we continue to move through the tournament.”
After a back-and-forth start, the Seminoles seized control midway through the first half and broke the game open by scoring the first six points after the break.
FSU shot 59 percent from the field and finished a blistering 9 of 16 from beyond the arc.
That included three 3s from Bookert, who led the team in points (15), rebounds (4) and assists (4).
Meanwhile, an uphill climb for the Eagles (7-25) was made even more difficult when their two best players – guard Eli Carter and center Dennis Clifford – fell into foul trouble.
Clifford fouled out after posting 15 points and nine rebounds, and Carter scored 21 despite playing most of the second half with four fouls.
With the 7-foot Clifford on the bench, the Eagles went with a small lineup that allowed FSU to dominate in nearly every facet of the game. The Seminoles enjoyed a 42-38 rebounding advantage, scored 42 points in the paint (compared to 22 for BC) and converted 16 BC turnovers into 21 points.
“The more we ran our offense, the more their bigs got tired and the slower they started to move, which got me and the guards open at the same time,” said Jaquez Smith, who scored all nine of his points in the second half.
And as the Seminoles’ lead ballooned – up to 24 points at its largest – Hamilton steadily emptied his bench.
Guard Benji Bell (17 minutes) and center Chris Koumadje (10) both nearly doubled their average workload, and walk-on guard Michael Saxton checked in and hit a 3-pointer for the second straight game.
It made for plenty of smiles from FSU’s starters, who were happy to watch from the sidelines as the game reached its conclusion.
“Us producing helped big time,” Smith said. “Because we were able to stay in there and not get the starters back out there and tire them out.”
Although an emphatic first step, the Seminoles still have a big hill left to climb. And it gets much steeper on Wednesday.
FSU’s next opponent, Virginia Tech, is riding a five-game winning streak and is fresh off a 77-62 rout of No. 11 Miami last week.
The first win of that streak came at FSU’s expense in a game that still leaves a bitter taste in the Seminoles’ locker room.
FSU led the Hokies for more than 34 minutes and appeared primed to end what was then a three-game losing streak.
Instead, the Hokies turned the tables down the stretch and raced past the stunned Seminoles for an 83-73 win.
“I believe that we should’ve won the game up there,” Bojanovsky said.
Even still, the Seminoles said there is confidence that comes from being in control for so long.
And they know exactly what kind of effort is required if they’re going to advance to the tournament quarterfinals.
“We’ve just got to come together for a full 40 minutes,” Beasley said. “We know what we’ve got to do tomorrow, and we’re ready.”