TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – The Florida State men’s basketball team would prefer to play a high-paced, high-scoring style.
But if an opponent insists on slowing things down to a grinding halt – as Georgia Tech did Saturday afternoon – the Seminoles are plenty comfortable playing that way as well.
And winning that way, too.
Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele each scored 12 points and the Seminoles picked up their third consecutive victory with a 59-49 win over the Yellow Jackets at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
FSU (16-5, 4-4 ACC) has evened its conference record after started 1-4 in league play, and can win a fourth straight ACC game for the first time in more than two years on Tuesday at Syracuse (8 p.m., Raycom).
“I’m just glad that we’re back to 4-4,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who earned his 140th ACC victory.
“We have to keep hopefully moving in the right direction.”
WATCH: Florida State tops Georgia Tech, 59-49
Georgia Tech (11-11, 3-6) came into the game ranked third in the ACC in field-goal percentage defense (39.0) and second in 3-point percentage defense (27.8).
And, for the most part, the Yellow Jackets’ zone-based system held FSU’s scorers in check.
The Seminoles’ 59 points marked their second-lowest output of the season (behind only 52 at No. 3 Virginia) and their 34.8 shooting percentage was their third-lowest.
Florida State, however, one-upped the Yellow Jackets with a fine defensive effort of its own. Georgia Tech shot just 17 of 60 from the field (28.3 percent), made only 3 of 21 3-point shots (14.3) and made only 8 of 37 attempts in the second half.
Tech’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Jose Alvarado, finished with zero points on 0-of-10 shooting and fouled out with 6:51 to play.
“We did a great job on him,” Mann said. “Were able to put length on him and frustrate him.”
Added Hamilton: “I thought our defense was pretty solid. I really did.”
The Seminoles might not have lit up the scoreboard, but they found the points they needed when it mattered most.
In addition to 23 points from the free-throw line, FSU got a timely 3 from freshman Devin Vassell near the end of the first half and another 3 from Phil Cofer early in the second.
Those helped FSU stretch what had been a one-point lead into an 11-point advantage at the 18:21 mark of the second half.
“That’s a good defensive team,” said junior guard Trent Forrest, who had nine points, six rebounds and three assists. “And being able to get the shots and things we were getting, that was a good thing for us.
“However we can get them, we’ll take them.”
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, rallied to a six-point deficit with 4:23 to play before both teams embarked on a cold shooting stretch that suited the hosts just fine.
The Seminoles and Yellow Jackets combined to miss 24 of their last 26 shots – which includes a 1-of-17 stretch from Georgia Tech – before Forrest and Mann sealed the game at the free-throw line in the final minute.
“We’ve had struggles offensively, which has unfortunately been a recurring theme,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “Our game plan was to keep the game in the 50s to muck it up and muddy it up. We did that.”
And the Seminoles could be in for more of the same on Tuesday.
Syracuse has been running coach Jim Boeheim’s famous 2-3 zone for generations and this season is surrendering only 64.0 points per game.
So if there was ever a good time for a grind-it-out win over Georgia Tech, Hamilton believes that two days before trip to Syracuse is it.
“This is the kind of game that we’ll go back and learn a lot from, watching the film,” he said, noting that FSU’s previous opponent, Miami, ran a zone against the Seminoles as well.
“We’ll have a chance to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of how we approached this game because this will help prepare us for the next game that we’re playing, against Syracuse, who uses another type of zone defensive philosophy. …
“So we’re going to be well-versed in how to attack these things.”