ATLANTA – The wave of upsets that swept across the country and turned college basketball on its head this week made its way to Atlanta on Wednesday.
And the Florida State Seminoles could do little to stand against it.
FSU, ranked No. 6 nationally and winner of 14 of its last 15 games, lost in stunning fashion, 78-56, to unranked Georgia Tech here at McCamish Pavilion.
The Seminoles’ defeat came just 24 hours after No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Kansas and No. 4 Kentucky all lost on Tuesday night. Elsewhere Wednesday, No. 16 Creighton suffered a defeat to unranked Georgetown.
“I think that’s every coach’s concern: you hope you don’t have one of these days, and (you hope) you don’t run into a team that’s having a great day,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It inevitably always seems to happen to every team every year. I hope this is the only one that we’re going to have.”
The Seminoles (18-3, 6-2 ACC) certainly hadn’t had one like it this season.
With Georgia Tech defending with a variety of zone looks, FSU took an eye-popping 71 shots from the field, yet made only 20. That amounts to a season-low 28.2 percent, a number dragged down further by a 6-for-25 effort from 3-point range.
The Yellow Jackets took their first double-digit lead less than four minutes into the game and never looked back.
“It was crazy. It was something that we’ve never experienced before,” junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said. “Tonight, we were just completely out of it. We couldn’t make anything to save our lives.”
While result perhaps could have been predicted – the Yellow Jackets (12-8, 4-4 ACC) had throttled No. 9 North Carolina at home earlier this season and had otherwise played to a number of close defeats – the fashion in which Georgia Tech won came as a shock.
Saddled by several early fouls and a chilly night from the floor, the Seminoles scored just 15 points in the first half on the way to their largest deficit of the season.
“They just hit all their shots and we missed all our shots early,” sophomore guard Terance Mann said. “That got it going and we couldn’t bounce back after that.”
FSU missed 18 straight field goals in the first half and went scoreless for more than eight minutes. During that span, the Yellow Jackets extended what had been a 19-11 lead to 38-12 two minutes before halftime.
The Seminoles were down 41-15 at the break and fell to their biggest hole – 29 points – when Tech made a 3-pointer to begin the second half.
“We couldn’t stop their run,” Mann said. “They hit a lot of tough shots. A lot of tough, contested shots.”
FSU fared a little better in the second half. The Seminoles more than doubled their first-half output, improved their shooting percentage (albeit from 24.0 in the first to 35.7 in the second) and outscored the Jackets by four points during the final 20 minutes.
But it didn’t amount to much in the wake of the first half.
“That was very disappointing, early on,” Hamilton said. “We had so many fouls, it kind of put us back on our heels. And I just thought, offensively, we sputtered. We didn’t move the ball very well. We didn’t cut very hard. And when we had looks, it wasn’t our day to finish.”
Sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon scored 12 points – all in the second half – to lead FSU and reach double-digits for the 30th consecutive game.
Trent Forrest added seven points and six rebounds, Jonathan Isaac had six points and eight boards, and Jarquez Smith and P.J. Savoy had six points each.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, got the bulk of its scoring from three players.
Aided by 14 free throws, freshman Josh Okogie had 35 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Only two other Yellow Jackets, Ben Lammers (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Quinton Stephens (13 points, 5 rebounds) scored more than five.
“I think you have those days where you’re just not quite as sharp and you run in to a team that’s playing exceptionally well,” Hamilton said. “And that’s a bad combination.”
The Seminoles have yet to lose back-to-back games this season, a trend they will look to continue Saturday at Syracuse.
At 12-9, 4-4, the Orange is off to one of the worst starts of coach Jim Boeheim’s tenure. FSU is looking for its first win at Syracuse since 1997.
“We can’t go back and fix it. We can’t play Georgia Tech again tonight,” Rathan-Mayes said. “So we’ve got to learn and just move on.”