By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s veterans said they felt a greater sense of responsibility after learning that teammate Aaron Thomas had been ruled ineligible last week.
They backed up those words on Wednesday night.
Montay Brandon posted a career-high 24 points and Kiel Turpin added a career-best 19 as FSU evened its record with a 93-77 victory over North Florida at the Tucker Center.
Brandon finished 8 of 11 from the field, dished eight assists and even knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season.
Wednesday marked the third time in the last six games that Brandon, a junior guard, has reached a new career high. His 14.5 points-per-game average is nearly double his 7.7 from last season.
“I think he’s found his niche,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s playing the way, I think, he feels he has to play with the talent he has.
“He’s inspiring his teammates with his effort, so, to see him step up and do that, I think it’s making a big difference.”
Turpin, meanwhile, bounced back from a tough outing at Notre Dame with one of the finest outings of his career.
A native of Normal, Ill., about three hours west of South Bend, Ind., Turpin had more than a dozen friends and family in attendance for FSU’s game against the Irish.
But he finished with just two points and one rebound in an 83-63 defeat.
Turpin on Wednesday came off the bench and finished a sterling 8 of 9 from the field and grabbed five rebounds.
“I definitely had something to prove,” Turpin said. “I probably had the worst game of my career in front of my family and friends and I felt really devastated to even see my family after the game. … I wanted to come out tonight and show that was just a one-time thing.”
With the veterans leading the way, FSU’s newcomers pitched in to help turn what started as a close game into a lopsided win.
FSU led just 26-25 at the 5:29 mark of the first half before riding a 17-4 run into the break.
Making the first start of his carer, freshman Phil Cofer matched a season-high with 14 points and added eight rebounds.
And Xavier Rathan-Mayes posted nine assists to go along with 11 points.
The Seminoles finished with 25 assists against 15 turnovers and they only gave the ball away twice in the second half.
“I was pleased with the fact we had 34 baskets and 25 assists,” Hamilton said. “That means we’re playing unselfish.”
Brandon said after the game that picking up a win and playing well after a disappointing showing was as important for the team’s confidence as its was for its overall record.
“It’s real encouraging, especially for our team morale,” he said. “Especially after getting embarrassed like that on national TV by Notre Dame, (winning) definitely put a good taste in our mouth.”
FSU has two more games – against South Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday and home against Stetson on Monday – before breaking for Christmas.
Hamilton stressed the need to develop an identity and tighten up some loose ends before conference play resumes next month.
“At this particular point it’s more about us,” he said. “We’ve still got some work to do. We’re still trying to identify that identity of how we have to play now.”