Florida State returned home after an eye-opening road trip that left them with a quad three loss and news that redshirt senior Malik Osborne would no longer be available in the 2022 season, due to a left ankle injury. The bad beats continued as the Seminoles fell to the Hokies 85-72, handing them their second home loss of the season.
Virginia Tech comes into this game riding a three-game losing streak while they fell to last place in the ACC standings. After a tough outing in Atlanta the Noles were greeted with a sold out crowd at the Tucker Center. In a much needed win, the Seminoles took a hard spill to statistically the worst team in the ACC.
Coach Leonard Hamilton and staff decided to roll with Jalen Warley, Anthony Polite, Mathew Cleveland, John Butler and Tanor Ngom to start the game. The Seminoles came into the game with three of their starters sidelined including: Malik Osborne, RayQuan Evans and Caleb Mills. Mills was available but he played limited minutes in this matchup.
The Hokies were the first to strike with a three ball by Nahiem Alleyne off the tip. After an early foul by Tanor Ngom, Naheem McLeod checked into the game and made an immediate impact. As the first timeout of the game was called with 15:48 left in the half, Mathew Cleveland had two points for the Seminoles while McLeod had three; VT was up 7-5 at that moment.
Butler knocked down a three from the top of the key to put the Noles up 10-9 after a Hokie bucket. Wyatt Wilkes checked into the ball game at the 14 minute mark. McLeod then gave Seminole fans his best impression of Shaq with a mean mug and rim hang. Fletcher entered the game at 13:30 right before Warely connected on a floater. With 12 minutes left in the first half the Noles found themselves with a 17-12 lead after both teams exchange three’s.
Hokies freshman Sean Pedulla lit up the stat sheet at the half way point in the first half, knocking down three straight shots from downtown. He started the game shooting 3-3 and VT was shooting 44% from three at the moment. A timeout was called with 10:38 remaining and FSU had the lead 19-18.
Right after the timeout Hunter Cattoor connected from three and the Seminoles turned the ball over on the very next play. The score was tied at 21 with nine minutes remaining. The Noles let the VT guards get way too comfortable in the first half, leaving gaps open on the wing while they struggled to move their feet into help defense. Wilkes knocked down a three ball at the 7:40 mark and a timeout was called just two plays after.
After the under eight timeout Hamilton made sure to extend the press into a 2-1-2 so the Hokies guards had less flexibility. Polite led the Seminoles with 10 points and two assists as the Noles were up 27-25 with just under five minutes. McLeod continued his dominant presence in the paint, starting the game 3-3 with seven points.
Mills checked into the ball game for the first time at the 4:09 mark. He was a bit sluggish and didn’t act as the Noles leading ball handler. After two plays on offense, it was definitely recognized that Mills wasn’t 100%. Hamilton called two timeouts within 30 seconds after the Hokies took the lead 33-27 with 2:39 remaining. Cattoor connected on his third three ball right after the timeout and VT was shooting 8-13 from downtown.
Warley and Fletcher were checked in with 1:12 left in the first half and Fletcher immediately put down a tomahawk dunk from the baseline. Right after a spark from the crowd, they went silent as Pedulla buried his fifth triple of the game. Cleveland went 2-2 at the line to cut the lead to 39-31 with 27.4 seconds remaining.
Virginia Tech led 39-31 entering halftime. The Hokies were shooting 9-14 from three point land and 15-27 from the field. Their 64% shooting half from three is their best of the season and the best the Seminoles have faced all year. The Noles forced just two turnovers in the half and didn’t have much success on the offensive end despite Polite scoring 10 points and McLeod shooting a perfect 3-3.
Florida State entered the half down 39-31 as it looked like the energy from the Georgia Tech game carried along in the plane ride home. VT is sixth in the country in three point shooting and FSU is extremely low in offensive efficiency, both of which were highlighted in the first half.
The second half was introduced with an and one from Warley. After a steal from Warley, Polite took it to the rim and knocked down two free throws to cut the lead to 39-36. VT’s Keve Aluma was sidelined with three fouls moments after. Despite another three from Cattoor the Seminoles showed better ball movement, leading to an 11-3 run and a timeout from Virginia Tech. With 17:33 left in the second half the score was tied at 42.
The Seminoles came out of the timeout with another heavy press from Warley and Cleveland. VT was leading 49-44 with 15:48 remaining; their long range shots kept falling early in the second half. Butler grabbed an offensive board soon after and dropped in another and one for the Noles. As a timeout was called Pedulla was leading the Hokies with 18 points on 6-6 from three, while Polite was leading FSU with 14 points and five rebounds.
McLeod dropped in another big dunk at the 14:30 mark after steals from Polite and Warley finally turn into a basket. Right after, Darius Maddox for the Hokies scored an and one three to put the Hokies up 53-50. Ngom then picked up his fourth foul, checking McLeod back into the game as he connected on another dunk. Pedulla missed his first three at the 12:50 mark but the momentum still stuck with VT.
A timeout was called with 11:25 left in the half, Virginia Tech led 55-54. McLeod tallied 13 points on 6-6 shooting at that point. Cattoor knocked down yet another three out of the timeout, putting his point total to 15 on 5-7 shooting. After a pair of layups from Fletcher and Pedulla the Hokies were up 60-56.
Fletcher put the Noles on his back and did the dirty work, grabbing two offensive rebounds while forcing two fouls from Virginia Tech. Cattoor connected on back-to-back triples in a span of 10 seconds and the Hokies found themselves with a 68-60 lead. As it might sound like a broken record, Cattoor hit yet another three ball with under five minutes remaining and Justyn Mutts followed that with a three of his own. With 4:32 remaining the Seminoles were down 76-60.
After a Butler three and an emphatic dunk from Fletcher on the fast break the Noles cut the lead to 78-67. Storm Murphy quickly shut up the Tallahassee crowd with five straight points at the under two minute mark. Cattoor and Mutts ended the game with some physical buckets to close out the game.
Florida State didn’t have an answer for Virginia Tech’s skilled offense that ultimately had the leg up in today’s matchup. The Hokies hand the Seminoles their second home loss of the season and FSU is now on a two game losing streak. VT ends the matchup shooting a lights out 72% from distance and 62% from the field. Their 72% on 18 three’s made is the best in all of college basketball this season.
Polite led the Seminoles with 17 points and six rebounds. McLeod had a monster game for the Seminoles 15 points on 7-7 shooting. Despite a great game from the Noles big man, VT’s Hunter Cattoor finished the game with 27 points and Pedulla paired that with 20. The two guards combined for 15-18 from three
The Noles now fall to 13-7, garnering a 6-4 conference record. They have 10 games remaining in the regular season as they continue their quest for a March Madness worthy resume.
Next Game: The Seminoles continue their ACC expedition as they tip off at Littlejohn Coliseum on February 2nd at 7:00 ET. It will be featured on the ACC Network. The Clemson Tigers are currently 11-9 with a 3-6 conference record.