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No. 10 Florida State finishes strong to beat Wake Forest by double digits

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Make it two in a row on the road for FSU.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a dominating road victory over Chris Mack’s Louisville Cardinals, the Florida State Seminoles continued their tour of the southeast with a trip to Winston Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. And as they did to the Cardinals, Florida State won by double digits, 78-68. The win moves FSU to 14-2 on the season and 4-1 in the ACC, putting the Seminoles in second place behind the Duke Blue Devils.

The first half was not so much a basketball game as it was a contest of which referee could blow their whistle the most. We noted in the preview that Wake ranked 7th in the country at getting to the free throw line and it certainly played out that way over the first 20 minutes.

In the double bonus barely 10 minutes into the game, Wake attempted 22 shots from the charity stripe in the first stanza. And they cashed in too. Making just one of their first four, the Demon Deacons sank their last 16 to finish 18-22 on the freebies—the 18 points representing more than half of Wake’s 34 points heading into the locker room.

Offensively, FSU was led by Devin Vassell and M.J. Walker who finished with 13 and 12 points before half, respectively. Part of this was good shooting by the duo and part was simply a product of every other ‘Nole being in foul trouble. Five Seminole starters/regulars picked up two fouls in the first half, and with Leonard Hamilton being notoriously conservative with players’ two-foul participation, FSU played much of the first stanza with Wyatt Wilkes and Harrison Prieto on the court together (to his credit, Prieto scored four points on three shots to go with a block, a steal, two rebounds, and, yes, two fouls in 10 minutes of first half action).

Despite the massive foul trouble, FSU’s hot start (the Seminoles led 15-4 five minutes in) gave the good guys a 41-34 half time lead. Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last.

Looking rusty and out of sync after having so many guys sit for what amounted to 45-60 minutes real time, FSU gave up a 9-0 run immediately out of the locker room and Wake took a 43-41 lead. The stretch featured dead-ball turnovers on FSU’s first three possessions and shots that weren’t even close to falling.

After the under-16 media timeout, FSU seemed to get their wits about them a little more and quickly re-took the lead. Ahead 50-47, Florida State locked Wake Forest down on defense and that was all she wrote. Wake scored five points between the 17 minute mark and the 7 minute mark, allowing the Seminoles to slowly pull away. The ‘Noles led 64-54 with 3:59 to play and executed well down the stretch to maintain the double digit lead, including a three by Malik Osborne, a baseline dunk by Patrick Williams, a touchdown catch and dunk by Trent Forrest, and superman throw down by Walker.

Florida State was led in scoring by Vassell with 17, as the Seminoles finished with three guys in double figures—the backcourt triplet of Vassell, Walker (15), and Forrest (14). Osborne and RaiQuan Gray scored nine each to complete a balanced night for FSU. Forrest added 10 rebounds, notching his first double-double of the season.

FSU’s defense limited Wake to 39% shooting and forced a turnover on 24.6% of their defensive possessions.

The Seminoles get a weekend off, before returning to the friendly confines of the Tucker Center to face the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers on Wednesday, January 15th.