TALLAHASSEE, Fl. — In their first meeting with the Miami Hurricanes, a few weeks ago in Coral Gables, the Florida State Seminoles needed all of regulation and then some to erase a big deficit and emerge with an overtime victory.
This time around, FSU did away with the drama in much quicker fashion.
Patrick Williams and M.J. Walker scored 14 points, Devin Vassell added 13 and the No. 8 Seminoles shot 50 percent from the 3-point line to erase an early deficit and surge past Miami, 99-81, in front of a sold-out Donald L. Tucker Center.
Thirteen different players scored and five finished in double figures for FSU, which improved to 20-3 overall and a program-record 10-2 mark after 12 games in league play.
The Seminoles, projected as a No. 3-seed in the NCAA’s “March Madness Preview Bracket” released Saturday afternoon, will play at No. 7 Duke on Monday.
“I thought Miami came out with the right game plan,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said, “putting them in a position where they made the game extremely interesting in the first half.”
Maybe a little more interesting than the Seminoles would have liked.
With a rival in town and its home arena sold out for the second time in three games, FSU watched as the fledgling Hurricanes (11-12, 3-10 ACC) raced to a 10-2 lead less than three minutes into the game.
They did it by attacking the Seminoles off the dribble and taking advantage of an FSU post defense that Hamilton has often said isn’t quite as strong as it’s been years past.
Each of Miami’s first five points came either at the rim or the free-throw line, and the Hurricanes finished the first half with 18 points in the paint.
“They elected to just drive the ball,” Hamilton said. “We had a very hard time, with our defensive system, containing the dribble in the first half. And they almost scored on us at will.”
The good news for the Seminoles is that they were just as effective on the other end of the floor.
Freshman Patrick Williams woke up the crowd – and maybe his teammates – with a transition dunk that sparked FSU out of its early malaise, and, within the next four minutes, the Seminoles had their first lead when Wyatt Wilkes banked in mid-range jumper.
From there, it was virtually all offense, all the time.
Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field – with the Seminoles pushing 60 percent – and FSU went into the break holding a 50-47 lead, its highest first-half scoring total in ACC play this season.
“Very obviously, we couldn’t stop them,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said after the game.
That trend, however, continued in only one direction in the second half.
Because, after tightening up their defensive efforts – attributable, they said, only to taking “more pride” in getting stops – the Seminoles’ offense kept right on going in what quickly turned from a close game into a rout.
Thanks to hot shooting and an overwhelming depth advantage (as shown in a 54-11 advantage in points from the bench), the Seminoles outscored the Hurricanes by 15 points over the final 20 minutes while holding UM to just 10-of-33 from the field.
Miami, which surrendered a nine-point lead late in its first meeting with FSU, briefly threatened to return the favor with an 8-0 run that cut the Seminoles’ lead to six with 8:23 to play.
Florida State, however, then slammed the door shut and hammered some nails in it, too, with a 15-3 answering run that featured points from Anthony Polite, RayQuan Evans, Trent Forrest, Vassell and Williams.
Williams capped the wave with back-to-back dunks that made it 90-70 at the 3:27 mark.
“Second half, I thought our guys did a much better job containing the dribble,” Hamilton said. “And then I thought that made a big difference in the game.”
Vassell, FSU’s leading scorer, put in 11 of his 14 in the second half, and the Tucker Center got a treat when Hamilton emptied his bench and allowed popular walk-ons Travis Light, Justin Lindner, Harrison Prieto and Will Miles to log a few minutes
And Light drew one of the afternoon’s biggest reactions by draining back-to-back 3-pointers in the game’s waning minutes.
“For Travis to knock down shots, Justin to get everybody involved, Harry to get a rebound and a put-back, it’s just huge for their confidence,” Vassell said. “I’m just thankful for them.”
After virtually every win his team has earned this season, Hamilton has liked to say that they’ll enjoy it for a short while before getting back to work.
This time, he’ll really mean it. The Seminoles will play at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium in a little more than 48 hours.
The No. 7 Blue Devils played at North Carolina on Saturday night.
“We’ve got to take it one day at a time, one game at a time,” Vassell said, “so now we’re focused on Duke.”