A slow start dug Virginia Tech in a big hole in the first half, and Al Thornton kept them from coming back in the second half, as Florida State beat #23 Virginia Tech 82-73 in Tallahassee on Wednesday night. The Hokies drop to 13-5 and 3-1 in the ACC, while Florida State improves to 13-5 and 1-3 in conference play.
After finishing the first half with zero points and two rebounds, Florida State’s future NBA draft pick Al Thornton let loose with a dominating second half performance. He had a double-double in the second half alone, finishing the game with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
Part of Thornton’s performance was luck – he threw in a halfcourt prayer with two seconds left on the shot clock – but most of it was his physical skill. After the Hokies were forced to switch to a zone defense in the second half, they could not keep Thornton off the offensive glass. He finished with five offensive rebounds for the game.
The Hokies shot well as a team, hitting 26-of-46 shots, good for 57%. They were also 4-of-11 from three-point range and 17-of-26 from the free throw line for 65%, which is above their average. In fact, they out-shot FSU, who was 23-of-47 (47%) from the field and 5-of-15 (33%) from three-point range. But the Seminoles, the ACC’s best free throw shooting team, hit an amazing 31-of-34 free throws, good for 91%.
Tech also failed to win the turnover margin, a rare occurrence for the Hokies. They committed 14 turnovers, while FSU had just 13.
Zabian Dowdell led the Hokies with 23 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Deron Washington added 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and Coleman Collins continued to surge forward with better play, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. He was 6-of-7 from the field.
Jamon Gordon added eight points, seven assists and three rebounds for the Hokies, who were out-rebounded 30-22.
There were early signs that the Hokies didn’t have their heads in the game. On FSU’s first possession, Coleman Collins fouled Seminole center Uche Echefu as he was shooting a three-pointer, and Echefu nailed all three free throws.
That type of play helped the Seminoles jump out to a 15-5 lead by the 15:35 mark of the first half. The Hokies responded by going on an 8-0 that was capped by a Coleman Collins dunk with 12:54 remaining to cut the lead to 15-13. But then the Seminoles started to slip away.
Florida State led 23-18 at the 8:09 mark when they made their run. First Ryan Reid hit a layup to but FSU up by seven, and pretty soon the Seminoles were on a 12-0 run that stretched their lead to 35-18 with 4:08 left in the first half. They eventually went into halftime with a 39-23 lead.
The Hokies tried to crawl their way back into the game in the second half. After FSU scored the opening bucket on a layup by Al Thornton that would be a sign of things to come, the Hokies went on an 8-0 run that cut the lead to 41-31 with 16:49 remaining in the game.
The game was even for the next several minutes, and an Al Thornton dunk at the 12:59 mark put FSU up 49-38. But the Hokies had one more run left in them. A jumper by Deron Washington that cut the lead to nine ignited a 13-3 Virginia Tech run. A shot by Coleman Collins with 9:35 left cut the lead to 52-51, but the Hokies couldn’t close.
A key point in the second half came with less than five minutes left in the game and the Hokies trailing 65-57. A.D. Vassallo drained a three-pointer from the corner of the basket that would have cut the lead to five, but his heel was on the out-of-bounds line, which turned the ball over to Florida State.
The Hokies played great defense on the ensuing possession, and knocked the ball out-of-bounds at half court with two seconds left on the shot clock. Florida State inbounded to Al Thornton, who threw up a prayer from half court, and the shot went in for him. That extended FSU’s lead to 68-57, and Tech never recovered, eventually falling 82-73.
The Hokies return to action on Sunday night when they host the Maryland Terrapins. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30, and the game will be televised by FSN.