Florida State has shown that even when the team isn’t playing its best basketball that defense will lead to a win.
Devin Vassell scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds as No. 18 Florida State won its 15th straight home game, knocking off Georgia Tech 70-58 on Tuesday.
But the Seminoles secured the win on the strength of their defense, blocking nine shots and creating 11 steals.
“They are very, very good defensively,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “We had 20 turnovers. Those turnovers, it’s just the difference.”
Defense made the difference for Florida State (12-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which leads the ACC with 9.6 steals per game. And those were especially critical in a game where the Seminoles were without M.J. Walker (hip bruise) and center Balsa Koprivica (back bruise).
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton did not expect either to be long-term injuries but, even while shorthanded, the Seminoles had more than enough depth to pull away in the second half.
“There were periods in the second half where I thought our guys were really locked in,” Hamilton said. “We made some energy plays. That’s what happens when the quality of your depth is involved as much as it was. And our guys were a little fresher.”
Patrick Williams scored 12 points, while Trent Forrest had eight points and six assists for Florida State.
The Seminoles led 48-45 and were finally able to gain some separation from Georgia Tech (6-7, 1-2) with the benefit of a flagrant-1 foul on forward Jordan Usher with 10:07 to go. Usher fouled Florida State guard Anthony Polite on a drive inside, and Polite made both free-throw attempts.
RaiQuan Gray, Vassell and Williams then followed with baskets in the next two minutes to take a commanding 56-47 lead.
“Just being able to persevere, come down the stretch and make big shots, make big plays, it just shows the character that we have,” Vassell said.
Vassell had eight points and Dominik Olejniczak added seven points in the second half for Florida State, which shot 16 of 30 (53.3 % ) from the floor after halftime to pull away.
Michael Devoe scored 19 points, knocking down 6 of 8 three-point attempts. Moses Wright added 13 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season, for Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech shot 22 of 55 (40 % ) from the floor.
TUCK TALKING POINTS
Florida State finished the decade with a 224-110 record. That includes a 2012 ACC title, six NCAA Tournament appearances and three berths in the Sweet 16. The Seminoles are 57-3 in their last 60 home games.
The Seminoles secured the win on the strength of their defense, blocking nine shots and creating 11 steals on the day.
Florida State at Louisville on Saturday.