Seminoles start slow, bury Jackets late

Florida State got caught sleepwalking through the first half and actually trailed an awful Georgia Tech team at intermission, but the 'Noles turned it on in the second 20 minutes and earned another win.

The Florida State players swear coach Leonard Hamilton didn't raise his voice, at least too much, with them at halftime Wednesday night before the 'Noles got rolling on the way to a 68-54 victory over Georgia Tech.

The 21st-ranked Seminoles were playing the last-place team in the Atlantic Coast Conference and trailing 25-24 at halftime.

Florida State hadn't played in a week and looked rusty, scoring only 10 points over the final 12:45 of the first half and tossing the ball away on 11 occasions, plenty to frustrate even a veteran coach like Hamilton.

''It did get a little hyped up every once in a while,'' said senior center Bernard James, who had 13 points and eight rebounds in the win. ''Strategy-type stuff, a little reminder of the small things.''

Those little things paid big dividends, as Florida State shot 61.5 percent and had just four turnovers in the second half when Tech had 14 of its 24 turnovers.

Michael Snaer scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half, as the Seminoles got their sixth straight win.

The victory gives Florida State (15-6, 6-1) its best start in league play since joining the ACC for the 1991-92 season, and it keeps the Seminoles tied with North Carolina for first place. Duke is right behind at 5-1.

Snaer's big second half helped awaken a slumbering offense that managed to shoot just 34.8 percent in the first half. The 6-4 junior made 5 of 7 from 3-point distance and has made 11 of his last 13 tries from beyond the arc, including a buzzer-beating game winner at Duke on Jan. 21.

Georgia Tech (8-14, 1-7) had the halftime lead despite not having scoring and rebounding leader Glen Rice Jr., who missed the game with a foot injury.

''I think they played up to us,'' Snaer said. ''They hit us every chance they got.''

Brandon Reed, who was 4 of 8 from 3-point distance, scored a season-high 18 points, and Daniel Miller added 10 for the Yellow Jackets, who lost their sixth straight.

Two free throws by Reed capped an 18-8 run that gave Georgia Tech its first lead, 23-22, with 3:09 left in the half.

''This was a good opportunity for us to get that feel of what it's going to be like when people are going to be playing you when you are in first place in a league that is as talented and as well coached as the ACC,'' Hamilton said. ''We are in a position that we have never been in before ... at the top of the heap, and people are wanting to get to that type of spot.''

The Seminoles get a big test Saturday, when No. 16 Virginia visits.

But for the most part, it was tough enough against Georgia Tech, which has dropped 10 of its last 11 games under first-year coach Brian Gregory. And it wasn't made any easier for the Yellow Jackets without Rice and his averages of 13.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.

''Our guys competed pretty well and did some good things,'' Gregory said. ''Unfortunately, we're not at a point to sustain that type of concentration and effort that you need to be successful on the road in this league, especially on the road against a team that keeps coming at you.''

Georgia Tech climbed within 49-42 with 7:51 left before an 11-3 run by the Seminoles that was capped by James' slam put the game out of reach.

Okaro White's thundering dunk capped a 10-0 spurt early in the second half that gave Florida State a 43-32 lead. The Seminoles had their largest lead at 68-51 on Snaer's fifth 3-pointer in the final seconds. White finished with 11 points, and senior guard Luke Loucks added nine points and seven assists.

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