TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton knew things might not be pretty Tuesday night. The Seminoles were down two junior starters and forced to start freshman who have played seven combined games.
The Citadel wasn’t the most imposing opponent, but Hamilton was relying on the unknown.
“We’re kind of going through a lot of challenges during this period that sometimes can make you stronger,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully that’s what the case is going to be.”
Freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 26 points and led Florida State to a 66-55 win, breaking a three-game losing streak. His career-high followed a 22-point effort in a loss to Providence last week.
Montay Brandon finished with 19 points and eight rebounds as Florida State (2-3) played without starters Aaron Thomas and Devon Bookert.
“We were going to make him make them against us,” Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said about Rathan-Mayes. “He made some shots. He’s a good player. He needed to make them tonight for his team.”
Brandon assumed a leadership role as the only returning starter on the floor at tip-off. His 19 points were a career-high and the 38 minutes played matched a career-high.
“Just being more aggressive and not wanting to lose another game,” Brandon said. “We had already lost three games in a row, so I just wanted to do whatever it took for us to win the game tonight.
“This was probably the first time I’ve been out there with (Thomas and Bookert). So, it was a little different. I just had the mindset of being aggressive and try to lead the team the best way I could.”
Ashton Moore led The Citadel (2-3) with 17 points while P.J. Horgan added 12 points and six rebounds. The Citadel trailed by 10 points with five minutes remaining, but a pair of 3-pointers from Jake Wright made it a two-possession game before FSU pulled away.
Rathan-Mayes hit a fade-away midrange jumper with one minute remaining to push the lead to 60-53. He scored the final six points of the game for Florida State.
The Bulldogs were swarmed by an athletic Florida State defense but still shot 47 from the field. On the opposite end, the Seminoles shot 60.5 percent from the field.
A smaller Citadel team was only outrebounded 23-22.
The Seminoles took a 17-6 lead off a 12-0 run early in the first. The run began with dribble-drive layup from Rathan-Mayes, his seventh consecutive point to start the game and was capped by a Robbie Berwick 3-pointer from the left bend. The Bulldogs, however, closed the half on a 13-5 run to trail by three at halftime. Wright buried a three with 48 seconds remaining to send The Citadel into the break trailing 22-19.
“Thought they did an outstanding job of staying poised and confident,” Driesell said. “I was really proud how we rebounded the ball. That was a big concern of mine coming into the game. I think because we did such a good job of that, it kept us in the ballgame.”
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
[display-posts category=”sports” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”5″]