TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State knows its defense goes a long way.
The No. 18 Seminoles blocked nine shots and created 11 steals to beat Georgia Tech 70-58 Tuesday for their 15th straight home victory.
“They are very, very good defensively,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “We had 20 turnovers. Those turnovers, it’s just the difference.”
Florida State (12-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) leads the ACC with 9.6 steals a game. And that tenacity was critical for a team missing starting guard M.J. Walker (hip bruise) and backup center Balsa Koprivica (back bruise).
Coach Leonard Hamilton does not expect either injury to be long term. But even while short-handed the Seminoles had more than enough depth to pull away.
“There were periods in the second half where I thought our guys were really locked in,” Hamilton said. “We made some energy plays. That’s what happens when the quality of your depth is involved as much as it was. And our guys were a little fresher.”
Devin Vassell scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Seminoles while Patrick Williams added 12 points and Trent Forrest had eight points and six assists.
Michael Devoe scored 19 points, knocking down 6 of 8 three-point attempts for Georgia Tech (6-7, 1-2). Moses Wright added 13 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season, but he also had six turnovers.
The Seminoles led 48-45 when they capitalized on a flagrant foul on forward Jordan Usher with 10:07 to go. Usher fouled Florida State guard Anthony Polite on a drive, and Polite made both free throws. RaiQuan Gray scored on a drive on the next possession. Vassell and Williams then followed with baskets in the next two minutes as Florida State went up 56-47 with 7:59 left.
“Just being able to persevere, come down the stretch and make big shots, make big plays, it just shows the character that we have,” Vassell said.
Vassell had eight points and Dominik Olejniczak added seven points in the second half for Florida State, which shot 53% after halftime to pull away.
The 20 turnovers by Georgia Tech were one short of its season high. Pastner, however, sees improvement during a 2-2 stretch.
“We are getting better these last four games,” he said. “I like the progress we are making.”
Florida State can make the case that it is capable of being a top 15 team, especially if the Seminoles win at No. 7 Louisville on Saturday.
Florida State finished the decade with a 224-110 record. That includes a 2012 ACC title, six NCAA Tournament appearances and three berths in the Sweet 16. The Seminoles are 57-3 in their last 60 home games.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets managed just three bench points and wore out in the second half.
Florida State: Even without Walker and with Koprivica playing just two minutes, the Seminoles still had 10 players score points.
Georgia Tech: at North Carolina on Saturday.
Florida State: at Louisville on Saturday.