By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Xavier Rathan-Mayes’ stat line on Tuesday would have been impressive enough on its own.
That he did it with two of Florida State’s key veterans sidelined by injuries made it even better.
Playing in just his fourth collegiate game, Rathan-Mayes scored 26 points as FSU snapped a three-game losing streak with a 66-55 victory over The Citadel.
The Seminoles (2-3) return to the court Friday against Charleston Southern.
“I’m not ready to start celebrating,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said, “but I do see some things that I like.”
Rathan-Mayes took charge as juniors Aaron Thomas (illness) and Devon Bookert (foot) continued to recover from their ailments.
He’s got 48 points in his last two games following a 22-point effort against Massachusetts on Sunday.
“In Xavier’s case, I think that it’s just a matter of time,” Hamilton said. “I don’t expect him – I would love to – but I don’t expect that to happen every night.
“I thought that he was challenged mentally, emotionally. He wanted to go out and help his team win. I thought he gave us a good effort on offense and defense.”
Rathan-Mayes, a redshirt freshman from Canada, entered Monday’s contest with a 30.0 shooting percentage. But he had hit just 1 of 12 attempts from 3-point range.
Against The Citadel (2-3), Rathan-Mayes made all but one of his nine field goal attempts. And he was a perfect 5 for 5 from both beyond the arc and the free-throw line.
He cut off any chance of a Bulldogs comeback with a spinning, fade-away jumper that made it 62-53 with just over a minute to play.
“We definitely need him to make shots so that the driving lanes will be opened up for our drivers to get to the cup and everything,” junior guard Montay Brandon said. “So him making those shots and getting that confidence gives everybody else confidence as well.”
Playing the role of lead veteran on Tuesday, Brandon bounced back from a quiet first half to finish with 19 points and eight rebounds.
He’s scored in double-digits in all but one of FSU’s games this season.
“It’s probably the first time I’ve been out there without (Thomas and Bookert),” Brandon said. “Going out, I just had the mindset to try to lead the team and be as aggressive as I could.”
Just as valuable as Brandon’s scoring, though, was his ability to guide all the underclassmen forced into playing significant minutes.
FSU had three freshmen and a sophomore on the floor for at least 11 minutes in the first half. Twenty-one of the Seminoles’ 22 points at halftime came from first-year players.
Hamilton said that Brandon helped the team navigate through an early deficit and played a big role in keeping the Bulldogs at bay in the second half.
“Montay, I thought, gave us tremendous leadership,” Brandon said. “Verbally, physically and emotionally. He was engaged, he was positive. Any time there was a letup he was talking to the youngsters and giving them right directions.”