Florida State men's basketball's winning streak snapped in sloppy loss at Georgia Tech

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In a battle of the best and worst teams in the ACC standings Wednesday night, the bottom feeder came out on top.

The Florida State men's basketball team entered the week the winners of six straight games and sitting atop the conference standings.

But after wins against some of the top teams in the ACC during that winning streak, the Seminoles couldn't survive upset-minded Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets (9-10, 2-6 in ACC) doubled their conference win total Wednesday night, knocking off the mistake-prone Seminoles (13-6, 6-3) 75-61 in front of a crowd of 4,697 at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, Ga.

"I've just got to give Georgia Tech credit," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said after the loss.

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"For whatever reason, their defensive zone scheme seemed to give us an awful lot of trouble. It's kind of hard to turn the ball over against a zone defense, but we figured out a way to do that tonight."

After a closely contested game for much of the first half, FSU closed out the first half in brutal fashion. The Yellow Jackets got hot while the Seminoles got sloppy, paving the way for an 18-2 GT run which turned a two-point deficit into a 14-point lead late in the first half.

The Seminoles came on in the middle of the second half, cutting the deficit to as little as four points with 8:02 left. In the end though, the deficit they buried themselves in proved too much to overcome and a strong finish from GT closed the door on FSU's comeback effort.

The loss is FSU's third straight to the Yellow Jackets. While FSU has had far more success so far this season, it did not get the chance to avenge its ACC Championship Game loss to the Yellow Jackets last season.

Senior guard Anthony Polite led the way with 11 points while starting center Naheem McLeod was the only other Seminole in double figures with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Jordan Usher led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points and added eight rebounds.

FSU center Naheem McLeod prepares to put up a shot during the Seminoles' 75-61 loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
FSU center Naheem McLeod prepares to put up a shot during the Seminoles' 75-61 loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.

The loss, paired with Duke's win over Clemson Tuesday and Miami's road win at Virginia Tech Wednesday, costs FSU its ACC lead. The events of the week so far drop the Seminoles from first to a tie for fifth in the ACC standings with North Carolina.

"This is a loss that won't look very good on our resume," Hamilton said.

"So that means we've got to figure out a way to make up for this with hopefully getting another run of games being successful."

Sloppy, sloppy Seminoles

FSU has had its struggles at times this season with zone defense looks.

After some early success Wednesday, these struggles reared their ugly head again against the Yellow Jackets.

FSU committed 12 first-half turnovers -- 10 of those in the final 8:34 of the half -- to put itself into the halftime deficit it faced. Seven different Seminoles contributed to that number in the first half and quite a few of the turnovers were of the live-ball variety and led to GT points off turnovers.

The Yellow Jackets had a season-high 13 steals and turned those into 15 points off turnovers.

"We have not done very well against zone the entire year. It's interesting that we have been an excellent team against zone (historically) and I think our schemes are pretty good..." Hamilton said.

The box score from FSU's 75-61 loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
The box score from FSU's 75-61 loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.

"I thought everything we wanted was available. We just didn't execute, take advantage of it. We did act like a team that is still learning to attack zone. That is the reality of the situation."

FSU improved dramatically in this facet after halftime. The Seminoles had just five second-half turnovers. However, they still matched their season high with 17 turnovers, two more than they had in any of their first eight ACC games this season.

During the early stretch of FSU's winning streak, the Seminoles were taking care of the ball exceptionally well with nine or fewer turnovers in three out of four games.

FSU has now turned it over 13-plus times in each of its last three games.

FSU ailments hinder depth advantage

Considering FSU played 11 players Wednesday while GT played just seven, you would figure the Seminoles would have a stamina advantage down the stretch.

That sure didn't seem to be the case, however, as the Yellow Jackets closed out the game on a 14-5 run and the Seminoles had no made field goals over the final five minutes of the game.

While GT played just seven players, four of them finished in double figures. Along with Usher, Michael Devoe scored 15 points, Deebo Coleman added 14 and Kyle Sturdivant had 12 points.

FSU guard Jalen Warley dribbles the ball during the Seminoles' 75-61 loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022
FSU guard Jalen Warley dribbles the ball during the Seminoles' 75-61 loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022

Lingering ailments from a few key FSU players affected their level of play as well as how much time they were able to spend on the court. Malik Osborne and Caleb Mills, two of the three Seminoles averaging more than 28 minutes this season, both were hindered during Wednesday's game.

Osborne aggravated the ankle injury he has been dealing with for a few weeks early against the Yellow Jackets.

He returned in the second half but was somewhat limited, scoring just three points and making just one of his five shots from the floor while playing just 20 minutes.

"It makes it very difficult. That's the challenge we are dealing with," Hamilton said of having to manage Osborne through his lingering injury.

"Other folks have dealt with it, we have this year. You've got to stay focused and try to utilize him the best way we can."

Mills, a main proponent of the Seminoles' winning streak, also struggled, shooting 2 of 7 and finishing with just five points. He played just three second-half minutes due to the throat infection he has been battling, Hamilton said after the game.

Up Next

With the winning streak snapped, FSU will have a chance to find its winning ways once more back at home this weekend.

The Seminoles host Virginia Tech (10-10, 2-7) Saturday at 3 p.m. It will be the Seminoles' second straight game against the last-place ACC team.

Reach Curt Weiler at cweiler@tallahassee.com or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU's sloppy loss at Georgia Tech costly for Seminoles in ACC standings

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