At approximately 8:55 on Saturday night, sounds of the Tomahawk Chop filled the air in Cassell Coliseum. This time however, Tech fans could smile when they heard the student section start the chant, because the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team beat the Florida State Seminoles for the first time since February 24, 1990. The Hokies played well in virtually all aspects of the game and grabbed a 72-61 victory over the ‘Noles. Tech is now 14-13 overall and 4-10 in ACC play. Florida State’s chances of an NCAA Tournament bid took a big hit as they dropped to 17-8 and 7-7.
The Hokies have been struggling in many areas of the game this year, most notably shooting, rebounding and playing well for all 40 minutes. Those trends reversed themselves on Saturday night, as the Hokies out-shot and out-rebounded FSU, and generally played well for the entire game.
Virginia Tech hit 26-of-54 shots during the game, good for 48.1%. They shot 5-of-10 from three-point range for an uncharacteristically high 50%. Tech also shot well from the free throw line, hitting 15-of-20 shots for 75%. Florida State countered by shooting 43.4% from the field, 28.6% from three-point range and 73.3% from the free throw line.
The Hokies also won the rebounding war and the turnover battle. Tech out-rebounded Florida State 33-28 and despite committing an unusually high 17 turnovers, they forced 20 Seminole turnovers to make up for it. Virginia Tech recorded 10 steals during the game, and their backcourt dominated Florida State’s guards for the majority of the game.
Virginia Tech’s all-Floridian backcourt of Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon outplayed Florida State’s three-guard lineup for the majority of the game. Dowdell finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range. He also had five assists, five rebounds and four steals. Jamon Gordon poured in 15 points, recorded four steals and dished out three assists. Markus Sailes saw his playing time go up in comparison to recent weeks. Sailes played 36 minutes, scored six points, had two assists and played great defense.
Tech also got a great game from Deron Washington, who was matched up with Florida State’s All-ACC forward Al Thornton. Washington scored 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds. He held Thornton to 13 points and just four rebounds. Coleman Collins added 13 points and four rebounds for the Hokies.
The Hokies played well from the very beginning against the Seminoles. Tech jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, with the first two baskets of the game coming from Markus Sailes, who is not known for his offensive ability. The Hokies led by as many as seven points in the first half, taking a 13-6 lead when Jamon Gordon scored on a breakaway layup with 12:41 remaining in the first half.
Florida State came back to tie the game on two occasions in the first half. The first came at the 6:53 mark when Jason Rich hit a layup on a fast break to make the score 19-19. The Hokies increased their lead to six points on the strength of back-to-back A.D. Vassallo three-pointers to make the score 27-21 at the 2:34 mark. However Florida State would score the last six points of the half, and the teams went into the locker-room at halftime with the score tied at 27.
A key moment of the game came early in the second half with Florida State leading 31-30. Coleman Collins got free down low and went up for the layup, but he was intentionally fouled by Jason Rich, meaning Collins got to shoot two free throws and then the Hokies got possession of the ball. Collins hit both free throws to put Tech up 32-31, and on the ensuing possession Deron Washington drained a three-pointer. The Hokies now led 35-31 with 18:24 remaining in the game.
But Florida State would come back and go on a quick 6-0 run that was aided by two Tech turnovers. FSU center Alexander Johnson scored four points during the run, and finished the game with a team-high 15 points. Florida State led 37-35 at the 16:39 mark of the second half.
At the 15:53 mark, Jerel Allen drained a three-pointer to give the Seminoles a 40-39 lead. It was the last time Florida State held the lead. The Hokies never went on a big run, but increased their lead gradually throughout the course of the game. Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell and Coleman Collins took over the game in the final minutes, combining to score 22 of Tech’s final 24 points.
With 9:24 remaining in the game, Zabian Dowdell hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to put Tech up 51-46. Then Deron Washington stole the ball from FSU guard Andrew Wilson, and Jamon Gordon finished on the other end with a dunk to put Tech up 53-46. Florida State then rallied and cut the lead to 53-51, but went on a 9-0 run to make the score 60-51 with 5:07 left in the game.
Florida State cut the lead down to four after Tech’s run, but could get no closer. The Hokies hit three of their next five shot attempts and 6-of-7 free throws down the stretch to clench the win. Virginia Tech shot extremely well in the second half. After hitting just 35.7% of their shots in the first half, the Hokies lit up the Seminoles by hitting for 61.5% in the second half. Tech also hit both of their three-point attempts in the second half and 11-of-14 free throws. They also out-rebounded Florida State 18-10 in the second half.
The Hokies will return to Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night when they host the Clemson Tigers. Shawn Harris, Allen Calloway and Bob Ritchie will be honored during the Senior Night festivities. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm and the game will not be televised.