Al Thornton scored all of his 27 points in the second half dominating the boards as well with 13 rebounds in holding off a Tech charge. Thornton took just one shot in the first half while his teammates built a 39-23 halftime margin.
Leonard Hamilton said of Thornton’s performance “Al drew a lot of attention from their defense in the first half. That gave his teammates opportunities to score. When they went to that zone defense in the second half we were able to get the ball to him more. And Al went to the rim strong and got to the foul line.”
Thornton was almost perfect at the stripe in connecting on 10 of his 11 attempts.
The rest of the team was equally impressive shooting 31 of 34 for the game the addition of Andy Enfield obviously paying dividends.
“This game showed that we are capable of playing good ball” said Hamilton. “We came out extremely focused in the first half. We passed the ball well. We rebounded well. And we came in and out of our sets efficiently.”
“It was a great team effort with a lot of guys blocking out.”
That was reflected in the final stats with FSU ending up with a +7 margin on the boards including +5 on the offensive end.
“We had the right mindset” he added.
While Thornton’s heroics in the second stanza carried FSU to the victory, it was Toney Douglas that led the charge in the first half building that 16 point cushion. Douglas, who finished with 22 points, scored 14 in the first twenty minutes.
FSU started off very aggressively on both ends of the floor attacking the basket on the strength of Douglas’ dribble penetration and defensively forcing Tech into uncharacteristic turnovers.
After Jason Rich nailed a three pointer to give FSU a 13-5 lead, Tech head coach Seth Greenberg called a timeout just four minutes into the game.
After Douglas added two free throws, the Hokies settled down and worked the ball inside more effectively resulting in an 8-0 run including three slam dunks, two by Coleman Collins, to trail 15-13.
After the two teams traded three pointers FSU went on a 17-2 run with VT turning the ball over three straight times and coming up empty on seven shot attempts.
The Seminoles extended the 39-23 halftime lead when Thornton picked up his first basket of the game on a layup just seconds into the second half.
But VT switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense that caused the ‘Noles problems offensively. Three pointers were no longer dropping as they did in the first half and had difficulty in driving in off the dribble.
Tech slowly chipped away at the lead. Collins’ bank shot closed the score to 52-51 with 9:30 left to play.
That’s when Thornton took over. The All American candidate proceeded to score 14 of FSU’s next 16 points. The explosion culminated when FSU unbounded the ball past half court with just two seconds on the shot clock and Thornton canning the 40 foot attempt and sending the partisan crowd into pandemonium.
It was the only three point shot out of ten attempts in the second half. But it certainly came at the exact right moment.
His shot of the game gave the ‘Noles a 68-57 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
Tech was forced to foul often and FSU made the Hokies pay converting 10 of 10 attempts.
The Hokies got no closer than seven points when Deron Washington made a three in the last seconds of the game.
Isaiah Swann punctuated the victory with a slam dunk for the final margin.
The win kept the Seminoles’ streak of winning every game this season when leading at the half.
Zabian Dowdell led Virginia Tech with 23 points. He was joined in double figures by Washington with 18 and Collins with 15.
With the win, FSU improves to 13-5, 1-3.
Next up is Miami, Saturday at 2:00 PM at the Civic Center. The game is to be shown on Raycom.