The Noles had their hands full Tuesday night when the Virginia Tech Hokies came rolling into town fresh off a home upset win over Duke. The inner conference matchup would decide who would claim the 4th seed and obtain the 2 round ACC tournament bye.
The Noles would also be saying goodbye to four of their senior players who would take the floor for the last time in the Civic Center.
Virginia Tech came out firing on all cylinders shooting 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range. Sophomore Guard Nickeil Walker and senior Guard Ahmed Hill led the charge in the first half each scoring 10 points and igniting the Hokies to a 14-point lead.
“They were extremely well prepared, they came out with a Game-plan to make things difficult for us and it worked,” said head coach Leonard Hamilton.
The Noles struggled in the first half offensively shooting 3-16 from 3-point range and 7-26 from the field. The Noles came storming back in the 2nd half picking up their defensive intensity which led to easy points in transition.
Seniors Terrance Mann and Phil Cofer were the catalysts for the comeback connecting on an alley-oop pass that sent shockwaves through the arena. Mann would finish with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists with Cofer adding 12 points of his own.
“I thought that our guys turned it up offensively in the second half, our defense was much better we didn’t want to send our seniors off this way,” said Coach Hamilton.
Big man Mfiondu Kabengele arguably was the deciding factor in the Noles big win. After scoring just two points in the 1st half, the redshirt freshman erupted for 15 points in the second half shooting 9-11 from the free throw line and grabbing 9 rebounds. Kabengele’s aggressive nature in the painted area would serve to FSU’s advantage as he drew 5 fouls against V-Tech’s star big man Kerry Blackshear.
“We had good energy coming out of the half guys knew that we had to step up and make plays and we went out and executed,” said Kabengele.
The Noles would take a 3-point lead with 28 seconds left after two big free-throws from senior Terrance Mann. The Hokies responded out of a timeout with a set play that freed up senior guard Ahmed Hill who knocked down a contested three-pointer to send the game to overtime tied at 61-61.
In the overtime period, the two teams went back and forth, but the turning point came with a minute left. The Noles were up 64-62 when sophomore guard MJ Walker stepped up and knocked down the dagger three-pointer that gave the Noles full control of the game. The Noles would send their five seniors off the right way by capturing the win 73-64 over Virginia Tech. Next week the Noles will head to Charlotte and compete for a shot at the ACC Tournament title.