NEW YORK | Soon after Florida State fans brought the tomahawk chop to Brooklyn, the Seminoles walked into the New York Islanders’ dressing room at Barclays Center and chanted “Semi-finals! Semi-finals!”
Dwayne Bacon scored all but two of his 17 points in the second half and No. 16 Florida State finally overpowered valiant Virginia Tech 74-68 on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The second-seeded Seminoles (25-7) reached the semifinals for the first time since their 2012 championship and will play Friday night against No. 22 Notre Dame, which beat No. 21 Virginia 71-58.
“We’re not Carolina. We’re not Duke. They’re not going to sit and talk about us all day like they normally do those other teams,” sophomore guard Terance Mann said. “This is what we have to do: Keep winning, keep proving people wrong.”
Zach LeDay led the seventh-seeded Hokies (22-10) with 22 points and nine rebounds, but Florida State seized control when he went to the bench with four fouls. Seth Allen scored 17 points for Virginia Tech, which was still leading midway through the second half despite a big disadvantage in size and depth against the fresher Seminoles, who finished with 18 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points.
Freshman forward Jonathan Isaac added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Florida State, which outrebounded the Hokies 45-31 and outscored them 42-20 in the paint. Mann had 11 points, nine rebounds and the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 8:49 left during the Seminoles’ decisive surge.
“Our depth is inspiring. It’s good to have,” Mann said. “We love it. We utilize it.”
Florida State, with 7-foot-1 Michael Ojo and 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje, has 11 players who average at least 10 minutes per game. They used 12 in the first half alone to seven in all for Virginia Tech.
Yet the Seminoles actually went to a smaller lineup and a rare zone defense in the second half to combat Virginia Tech’s drive-and-kick game, which helped generate seven 3-pointers on 15 attempts before halftime. The Hokies went 1 of 10 from beyond the arc after that.
Trying to contend with Florida State’s imposing height and its string of reinforcements finally took its toll on the Hokies midway through the second half. That’s when the 6-foot-7 LeDay, doing all he could underneath against a parade of taller opponents, was whistled for his fourth foul and took a seat with Virginia Tech ahead by two.
“I can’t put myself in those situations because that’s not helping my team, and I’ve just got to be smarter than that,” LeDay said.
The Seminoles immediately assumed control for good, going on runs of 13-0 and 18-1 to grab a 68-53 lead with 4:01 left. LeDay re-entered with 6:24 to go and Virginia Tech down nine, but it turned out to be too late.
“I think we stayed in attack mode,” Bacon said. “Every guy that we had on the team that was in the game at the time was just pitching in in a positive way.”
The gritty Hokies responded with a 10-0 spurt, and Justin Robinson’s 3-pointer trimmed it to 68-63 with 53 seconds to go. They were still down five when Allen missed on a contested drive with 31 seconds remaining, and the Seminoles closed it out from there.
“We’re going to play 6-6 and under. That’s the team that we have, and we’ve done all right,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said.
NOW AND THEN
The Hokies never trailed in the first half and led for 17 1/2 minutes before going into the break up 35-33. They extended the margin to five before Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored all the points in a 10-0 run that gave Florida State its first lead. “When we start off slow, we’re in the locker room saying we’re going to wear them down because that’s what we do,” Isaac said.
Virginia Tech: Despite the defeat, the Hokies have almost certainly done enough to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007 under coach Seth Greenberg. … The last time Virginia Tech advanced to the ACC semifinals was 2011. … The Hokies lost 93-78 at Florida State on Jan. 7 during the Seminoles’ 12-game winning streak. Allen, the ACC Sixth Man of the Year, missed that game due to concussion symptoms. He has scored in double figures in 15 of 17 games since.
Florida State: Reached the tournament semifinals for the third time under coach Leonard Hamilton and fourth since joining the ACC for the 1991-92 season. … Bacon was 4 for 17 from the field, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range, but 9 of 10 at the free throw line.
Virginia Tech: Expecting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
Florida State: Split two regular-season games against third-seeded Notre Dame, with each team winning at home.