Florida State is now 2-0 against the SEC.
Devin Vassell scored 13 points, including a pair of free throws in the final minute after he stole the ball from Tennessee, as the Seminoles defeated the No. 17 Volunteers 60-57 on Friday night in the Emerald Coast Classic.
M.J. Walker scored 10 points for FSU (6-1), which never trailed and held off a late Tennessee rally.
“We knew we had to step it up in order to be successful against a team of this caliber,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They kept coming back. They didn’t go away.”
Ten Seminoles scored points. FSU will play the No. 20 VCU-Purdue winner on Saturday night in a game that will be broadcast by the CBS Sports Network.
Lamonte Turner led the Vols (5-1) with 20 points. Jordan Bowden had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
It was the sixth straight win for FSU and a second victory over a ranked team after the Seminoles knocked off Florida in Gainesville earlier this month.
Defense tightens down the hatches
FSU’s defense was suffocating all night. While the offense struggled for large parts of the game, the Seminoles relied on their elite ability to get stops and willed themselves to the win. On the night they held Tennessee to just 9 of 20 (45%) on their twos and 5 of 22 on their threes. That’s good for 33% total and when you add in the 21 turnovers they forced (23 points scored off), Leonard Hamilton has to love what his defense is doing this early in the season. Ken Pomeroy now has FSU as the No. 4 most efficient defense in the country. The Volunteers made just 14 total buckets on the night and looked bothered by the Seminoles’ length. – Ariya Massoudi
Freshmen continue to impress
Balsa Koprivica and Patrick Williams combined for 16 points an numerous highlight reel plays throughout the game against Tennessee. Williams will no doubt be on Sports Center after his throw down in transition over Yves Pons and had a couple other impressive drives and finishes. Koprivica continues to come into his own with an array of skill, aggression and athleticism the Seminoles haven’t seen from a freshman big man, maybe ever. He also pulled down a few monster rebounds in crucial moments to help FSU ice the win. As these two keep getting comfortable at this uptick in level of play, the Noles will be able to rely on consistency in their rotations. – Ariya Massoudi