Florida State was shorthanded and fell short at defending Virginia Tech’s 3-point shooters.
Hunter Cattoor scored a career-high 27 points — drilling 9 of 12 3-pointers — while freshman Sean Pedulla added a season-best 20 points — making 7 of 11 3-pointers — as Virginia Tech poured it on the Seminoles from long range, 85-72 on Saturday afternoon. It was the Hokies’ first win at Tallahassee since Feb. 1990 when the teams played in the Metro Conference.
FSU failed to rotate well on defense and the Hokies made the Seminoles pay from 3-point range throughout the afternoon. VT shot 18 of 25 (72 percent) from long range and finished 32 of 52 (61.5 percent) from the floor.
“We’ve been trying to switch one and five I’m not really sure we can do that with Naheem McLeod,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “So we are going to have to make adjustments to another defensive system. … A lot of those 3s were because they know we switch. They took advantage of that. But I didn’t expect them if they were in the gym by themselves shooting, with no defense on you it’s hard to go 18 of 25.”
Anthony Polite scored 17 points on 5 of 8 shooting from floor with a team-high six rebounds and McLeod added a season-best 15 points on 7 of 7 shooting, mostly on dunks. But McLeod was a step slow on the defensive end, especially when defensive switches put him out on the arc against VT’s smaller guards.
The Hokies came into the game making 41 percent of their 3-pointers, tops in the ACC and second in Division I. On Saturday, they made an astonishing 72 percent.
“The basket for them was as big as it could have been,” Polite said.
FSU (13-7, 6-4 ACC) lost its second straight game. The Seminoles played without RayQuan Evans, who is mourning the loss of his brother, as well as Malik Osborne, who is out for the season with an ankle injury and had a boot on his left foot (he and Evans were often cheering and encouraging from the FSU bench). Leading scorer Caleb Mills (tonsillitis) entered the game with 4:09 left in the first half but played just three minutes, missing a jumper and turning it over twice.
The Seminoles trailed 39-31 at the half but cut the deficit all the way down and went ahead 54-53 on a McLeod dunk with 11:55 to go. But after McLeod had another dunk at the 7:25 mark, cutting the VT deficit to 62-60, Cattoor had four 3s as part of a 14-0 Hokies run.
“With a little under minutes to go we were within striking distance,” Hamilton said. “I think it was a two-point game. And that’s when I thought that fatigue set in. And we just didn’t have enough energy there to play it the way we’ve been accustomed to playing.”
FSU played a rotation of 10 but leaned on Polite (36 minutes), Matthew Cleveland (33 minutes) and Jalen Warley (32 minutes). Cleveland made his first start and had 10 points and five rebounds, while John Butler had eight points. Jalen Warley’s six assists and four steals are both season-highs.
Polite came into the game with a wrist taped and seemed to have issues with both as he took a tough foul and hit the court hard. “My wrist is fine,” Polite said. “I’ll be ok. Just out there fighting.”
The FSU-Virginia Tech box score can be viewed here.
George McCloud will have his jersey retired during Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest. McCloud averaged 13.5 points in his FSU career (1986-89) and played in the NBA for 12 seasons. He will join Dave Cowens, Dave Fedor, Hugh Durham, Sam Cassell, Ron King and Bob Sura in having their jerseys hung in the rafters at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
FSU will play at Clemson on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (live stream on ACC Network Extra).