Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that No. 21 Florida State started slowly against Georgia Tech on Wednesday night. The Seminoles were playing their first game in a week – their first home game in more than two weeks – and faced a lowly Yellow Jackets team desperate to pick up any momentum for a season that has been mired in disappointment.
Then again, given recent times, it should also come as no surprise that after they fell behind the Jackets by one point at halftime, the Seminoles stormed out to a dominant second-half performance and surged past Georgia Tech to their sixth consecutive ACC victory, a 68-54 win that gives FSU its first 6-1 ACC record in school history.
Florida State reclaimed its lead atop the ACC standings (the Seminoles hold the tiebreaker over 6-1 North Carolina) and will host No. 16 Virginia (18-3, 5-2 ACC) Saturday at 1 p.m.
“I think this team is learning that when you move into the upper echelon of any league, you'll get everyone's best shot,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I thought this team came at us and played an excellent game and if we hadn't turned it up a notch, it wouldn't have given us an opportunity to extend the lead and come away with a 14-point victory like we did.”
The Seminoles (15-6, 6-1 ACC) trailed 25-24 at halftime but went on a 19-7 run after the break that gave them a double-digit lead.
Michael Snaer scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half and scored in double figures for the fifth straight game. And FSU upped its shooting accuracy, from 34.8 percent in the first half to 61.5 (16 of 26) in the second, marking the third consecutive contest that the Seminoles have turned in a 60-plus percent second-half shooting performance.
“[Snaer] can really impact the game with his defensive pressure, and he did tonight,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “And so now anything you get offensively is a bonus. And what's happened now is that bonus has been pretty darn good. And so now they go from a good team to a great team because of that.”
Hamilton reiterated that his team is still learning about what it takes to be the top team in the ACC – even with more than half of the conference slate to go.
“We're in a position that we've never been in before,” he said. “We've always been the hunters. Now we feel like we're being hunted. That's a different mindset.”
Center Bernard James, who scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds, agreed, although he noted that the Seminoles shouldn't have any issues with intensity for their matchup with the Cavaliers.
“We need to feel threatened every time we walk onto the court,” James said. “And I'm not sure we felt threatened until we saw that they really came to play.
“I definitely don't think that'll be a problem on Saturday – we're playing another ranked team.”