WINSTON-SALEM — Tenth-ranked Florida State keeps winning games and hovering near the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference, even as coach Leonard Hamilton sees an inexperienced team that’s still developing together.
Devin Vassell scored 17 points and Florida State pulled away in the final 10 minutes to beat Wake Forest 78-68 on Wednesday night, giving the Seminoles another double-digit win in league play.
Florida State (14-2, 4-1) got in foul trouble in the first half and sent the Demon Deacons to the line 22 times before the break, then surrendered an 11-0 run out of the break that gave Wake Forest a lead. Yet Florida State tightened up its defense and stopped sending a parade of Demon Deacons players to the foul line, then began to gradually stretch out a lead on the way to a seventh straight win.
“I’m just proud we were able to find a way to win while we’re still growing,” Hamilton said. “We’re extremely inexperienced. … so we’re still trying to find our way. I think if we continue to keep growing, hopefully we can continue to keep finding ways to win games while we’re still developing and evolving.”
M.J. Walker scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half for the Seminoles, who went ahead for good on RaiQuan Gray’s 3-pointer at the 14:04 mark. They also held the Demon Deacons to one field goal over 6 1/2 minutes as they finally asserted control, pushing a 52-49 lead to 67-56 on Malik Osborne’s 3-pointer with 2:46 left.
Florida State has won won 14 of 15 games, including a weekend win at then-No. 7 Louisville that signaled Hamilton’s Seminoles are again a factor in the league race.
“Just because we might not be playing another ranked team doesn’t mean that we can come out and be flat,” Vassell said, adding: “It might not be Duke or Virginia, but we’ve always got to come out and just play to the best of our abilities.”
Brandon Childress scored 20 points to lead Wake Forest, which played without starter Chaundee Brown due to a lower-leg injury. The Demon Deacons (8-6, 1-3) got off to a slow start to fall behind by a dozen in the opening minutes, but used that 11-0 run to erase a 41-34 halftime deficit and get back in it.
“Obviously we can say that we competed against a top-10 team, but that’s not enough,” said Wake Forest’s Olivier Sarr, who had 10 points. “Now we need to win games. Losing by 10 to a top-10 team is not just something we should be happy about.”
Florida State: The Seminoles arrived with plenty of momentum following the Louisville win, with its past three league wins all coming by double-figure margins dating to early December. FSU has won 16 of its last 18 ACC regular-season games dating to last January.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons were coming off a big win at Pittsburgh after rallying from 16 down. But they were short-handed for this one without Brown, a 6-foot-5 junior averaging 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. They fell behind 15-3 before pushing ahead early in the second half, then stayed within a shot or two of the Seminoles before Florida State made its clinching move.
Off The Line
Wake Forest made 18 of 22 free throws in a first half that saw FSU whistled for 14 personal fouls, offsetting a rough first half in which the Demon Deacons had seven field goals and six turnovers. But the Demon Deacons warmed up to 48% from the field after halftime, but they got to the line just 10 times.
Trent Forrest had 14 points and 10 rebounds for FSU, posting his second career double-double. … Wake Forest coach Danny Manning offered no clear timeline on when Brown might be ready to play again. … The Demon Deacons committed 11 second-half turnovers that led to 11 second-half points for FSU. … Florida State made just 6 of 23 3-pointers and shot 43.5% for the game.
Florida State: The Seminoles return to action next Wednesday at home against 18th-ranked and reigning national champion Virginia.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons stay in their home state and visit second-ranked Duke on Saturday night.
Hugley carries E. Tennessee St. past UNCG
GREENSBORO — Joe Hugley came off the bench to score 14 points to lift East Tennessee State to a 64-57 win over UNC Greensboro on Wednesday night.
Bo Hodges had 13 points and six rebounds for ETSU (14-3, 3-1 Southern Conference). Tray Boyd III added 11 points. Lucas N’Guessan had three blocks for the visiting team.
Isaiah Miller had 24 points for the Spartans (12-5, 2-2). James Dickey added 12 points and eight rebounds.
East Tennessee State faces VMI at home on Saturday. UNC Greensboro plays Furman on the road on Saturday.
Zunic carries Winthrop over High Point
HIGH POINT — Kyle Zunic came off the bench to tally 14 points to carry Winthrop to a 79-57 win over High Point on Wednesday night.
Charles Falden had 14 points for Winthrop (9-7, 3-0 Big South Conference), which won its fifth straight game. Hunter Hale added 14 points. Micheal Anumba had 11 points and six rebounds for the road team.
Cliff Thomas Jr. had 14 points for the Panthers (3-12, 0-2). John-Michael Wright added 12 points.
Winthrop faces Gardner-Webb at home on Saturday. High Point faces Presbyterian on the road on Saturday.
Fields, Jr. lifts Radford past Gardner-Webb
BOILING SPRINGS — Travis Fields Jr. posted 16 points as Radford narrowly beat Gardner-Webb 67-64 on Wednesday night.
Carlik Jones had 11 points and six assists for Radford (7-7, 2-0 Big South Conference), which won its fourth consecutive game. Cle’von Greene added 10 points. Devine Eke had seven rebounds for the visitors.
Nate Johnson scored a career-high 27 points for the Runnin’ Bulldogs (5-10, 1-2). Jaheam Cornwall added six rebounds. Ludovic Dufeal had seven rebounds.
Eric Jamison Jr., whose 15 points per game heading into the matchup led the Runnin’ Bulldogs, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting. Jose Perez, whose 13 points per game entering the contest ranked second on the Runnin’ Bulldogs, made just 3 of 16 from the field and scored seven points. The rest of the team shot 51% (19 of 37).
Radford plays Campbell at home on Saturday. Gardner-Webb plays Winthrop on the road on Saturday.
Russell leads Rhode Island attack in win over Davidson
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Fatts Russell scored 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and Rhode Island beat Davidson 69-58 on Wednesday night.
Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine and Jacob Toppin each scored nine points for the Rams (9-5, 1-1 Atlantic 10). Langevine also grabbed nine rebounds.
Jermaine Harris made a pair of foul shots for a 21-20 lead in the first half and the Rams never trailed again. Langevine’s three-point play with 4:47 left made it 59-48 before the Wildcats went on a 10-3 run to get within 62-58 with 50 seconds to go but never scored again. Tyrese Martin and Dowtin each made a pair of fouls shots and Russell sank a 3 at the buzzer for the final margin.
Carter Collins led Davidson (6-8, 0-2) with 12 points despite going 0 for 6 from 3-point range. Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson each scored 11 and Luka Brajkovic scored 10 with 11 rebounds.
Whitfield carries Campbell past UNC Asheville
ASHEVILLE — Jordan Whitfield scored a career-high 16 points, including a pair of free throws with 5.6 seconds left, as Campbell held off UNC Asheville 64-62 on Wednesday night.
Cory Gensler had 12 points for Campbell (10-5, 1-2 Big South Conference). Ja’Cor Nelson added 11 points and six rebounds, and Jesus Carralero had 10 points. Campbell put up 19 second-half points, a season low for the team.
Tajion Jones had 17 points for the Bulldogs (6-7, 0-2). DeVon Baker added 16 points and Lavar Batts Jr. had 13.
Asheville rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit, but could never regain the lead as the Camels hit 7 of 15 3-pointers.
Campbell matches up against Radford on the road on Saturday. Asheville matches up against Charleston Southern on the road on Saturday.