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Seminoles survive Melvin Johnson, Virginia Commonwealth

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The Florida State men’s basketball team raced out to a double-digit halftime lead, and then hung on for a hard-fought 76-71 victory over Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday in Atlanta. FSU overcame a career-high 36 points from the Rams’ Melvin Johnson to pull out the victory.

With the teams tied at 13, the Seminoles went on a 24-10 run to establish control. The Seminoles led at halftime, 40-29.

Florida State still led by 10 at 48-38, but the Rams went on a 22-11 run of their own to regain the lead, 60-59. After Florida State pushed the lead back to 70-63, VCU made one final run to get within one.

From there, it was Xavier Rathan-Mayes to the rescue. He made four free throws over the final 1:06 and made a key steal with less than 30 seconds remaining that led to a Terance Mann dunk.

Rathan-Mayes was a factor the entire game, not just the closing moments. He scored 23 points, hit four of five three pointers, dished out four assists, had 7 rebounds and three steals. Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley also scored 10 points. Beasley was playing in his hometown for the first time as a collegian.

In addition to Johnson’s big time performance for the Rams, Korey Billbury had 11 points and Mo Alie-Cox added 10. VCU shot 43 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers.

Florida State shot 45 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers of their own. They outrebounded VCU 39-33 and had 11 steals.

Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton was pleased by the way his team overcame the hot shooting from Johnson.

“He got on fire from the perimeter and he made it very difficult for us,” said Hamilton. “But we made some big plays and gave ourselves the opportunity to extend our lead. What gave us the win at the end were some of those deflections and steals.”

Following the disappointing narrow loss to Iowa earlier in the week, Hamilton and the Seminoles can feel good about beating a team like the Rams. Coming into Sunday, their only two losses were by 8 points to Duke and one to Wisconsin.

FSU (5-2) takes a week off before welcoming Southeastern Louisiana to the Tucker Center next Sunday.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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