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Big win for FSU basketball: Florida State 76, VCU 71

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State basketball was in need of a big out of conference win, and they picked that up today beating VCU 76-71 in Atlanta. The Rams project as a top contender in the Atlantic 10, and this win should look really good in March.

The game played out about as expected - it was sloppy. VCU generates the 2nd most steals in the nation, and they forced the Noles into some key turnovers early. But Xavier Rathan-Mayes kept things under control, and fueled by his 13 1st half points the good guys were able to slowly pull away. By half it was 40-29 FSU.

The 2nd half was a different game. VCU's all everything senior, Melvin Johnson, went nuts. He hit 3s. He hit his trademark floaters in the lane. He scored from everywhere. On many possessions no other VCU player ever touched the ball. Coach Hamilton went small for a while, switching everything in an attempt to contain him, and it didn't work. He went big with a hard hedge, and it didn't work.

Johnson would finish the game with 36 points.

VCU took a late one-point lead. From there it went back and forth. After an interesting 10-second call went against FSU, Johnson had a chance to put his team back in the lead with under a minute to play. But XRM poked the ball away, and Terance Mann slammed it home on the other end.

Johnson missed again, and FSU made free throws. Game over.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes had a season high 23 points and seven rebounds, and Malik Beasley (10) and Dwayne Bacon (10) were the only other players in double figures. Boris Bojanovsky had his 2nd straight excellent game, despite scoring just four points. He blocked six shots, altered several more, and had three steals. Terance Mann contributed two big slams down the stretch, and Jarquez Smith played 16 really good minutes off the bench.

The star of the game, though, was FSU's defense. For 20 minutes they shut down VCU. In the 2nd half it took a great player going absolutely ham for them to generate any offense. Against a VCU team that prides itself on generating points off turnovers, it was FSU who dominated that category for most of the game. It wasn't vintage FSU defense, it wasn't even great FSU defense. But it was the beginning of what could be both of those things. The players are beginning to understand what the staff wants them to do. In two months, this defense could be really good.