As the Jackets’ push to get into the NCAA tournament conversation was slowed by the losses to the Cavaliers and Blue Devils, Saturday’s victory provided the Jackets with an attention-getting win. Aside from its spot in the AP top-25 poll, the Seminoles were also ranked 18th in NET, the NCAA’s ranking system. Before Saturday, the Jackets’ best win by measurement of NET was over No. 49 North Carolina. The victory also set a school record as their 10th consecutive home ACC win, breaking a record set by the 1995-96 team and started the season before.
“We wish that those two games went differently, but coming home, and beating a great, great team, man, I’m proud of my brothers,” guard Jose Alvarado said.
Florida State (10-3, 6-2) was held to a season low in scoring, 14 points below its season average. The Jackets forced 20 turnovers, the most committed by the Seminoles this season, as they deflected passes and poked the ball away on the dribble to create transition scoring chances. Forward Moses Wright had six steals, and Alvarado, the ACC’s steals leader, had five. They became the first pair of ACC teammates to record 20-point, five-steal games in the same game in the past 25 years, according to a tweet from the ACC Network.
Tech was without starting guard Bubba Parham, who was at the funeral of a cousin with whom he was particularly close. After the game, Pastner said the team dedicated the win to him. On Saturday morning, Parham sent the team a text message that Pastner called beautiful and powerful.
“This one was for Bubba,” Alvarado said.
Normally a team that relies on its quickness to create turnovers and create open shots, the Jackets sought to match the Seminoles’ force Saturday. They weren’t always successful against a team rated by KenPom as the tallest in the country – the Jackets are the shortest in the ACC – but were enough of the time. Alvarado said it probably was the most physical game that the Jackets have played this season.
“They’re a very tough team, they’re very physical,” Alvarado said of the Seminoles. “We fought with them, and we kept battling with them and when they punched us, we punched them back. We just kept on trying to fight to the end, and it went our way this time.”
Ahead 38-35 about six minutes into the second half, Wright drove to the basket for a basket and foul, missing the and-one free throw. Alvarado challenged FSU guard M.J. Walker, a Jonesboro High grad, inducing a miss, and Wright was fouled while securing the air-balled drive. Wright passed out of a trap to find guard Michael Devoe for a 3-pointer and a 43-35 lead. After a Seminoles free throw, Alvarado drove at the basket and the heart of the FSU defense, banking a shot to the glass as he fell to the floor.
Wright then pinned a layup attempt by Scottie Barnes against the glass, after which he drove against 7-foot-1 Balsa Koprivica and was fouled and made two free throws for a 47-36 lead with 11:45 to play. Tech’s lead never dropped below seven points the rest of the way.
“We talked about having a hit-first mentality, and we were able to do that (Saturday),” Pastner said.
Devoe came to Tech’s aid with 19 points after a two-game slump in which he had scored a total of seven points on 3-for-17 shooting. Wright punctuated the win with three dunks in the final minute. With Florida State getting called for 22 fouls, tying for the most for a Tech opponent in a non-overtime game this season, the Jackets were 19-for-25 from the line.
Tech will have a quick turnaround to play at Louisville on Monday afternoon. It is a make-up game for the Jan. 9 game that was postponed because the Jackets could not play because of COVID-19 protocols.