TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)—It looked like Virginia Tech had a plan to handle Florida State’s Al Thornton. It did—for a while.
Thornton scored all of his 27 points in the second half as the Seminoles snapped a three-game losing streak with an 82-73 victory Wednesday night, handing the Hokies’ their first Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.
“He took the game over,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “He’s a special player.”
Toney Douglas added 22 points for Florida State (13-5, 1-3), which nearly blew an 18-point second-half lead before Thornton took control of the game.
“He was imposing his will on the team and on the game,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “That’s about as good as it gets.”
The 6-foot-8 Thornton was limited to just one shot in the first half while his teammates picked up the slack and built a 39-23 lead.
Florida State went up 41-23 on a dunk by Thornton following one of his 13 rebounds.
“It started with rebounding,” the soft-spoken Thornton said. “I got in a groove and that was it.”
Virginia Tech (13-5, 3-1 ACC), which beat Duke and then-No. 1 North Carolina in an eight-day span, pulled within 52-51 midway through the second half on a jumper by Coleman Collins, but never got the lead.
Zabian Dowdell had 23 points for the Hokies, who moved into the Top 25 this week for the first time since 1996. They had won four straight and nine of 10.
Deron Washington added 18 points and Collins had 15 for Virginia Tech, which lost despite shooting 70.8 percent from the field in the second half.
Thornton, the ACC’s leading scorer in conference games, had 11 rebounds in the second half while going 8-of-13 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
The Seminoles finished 31-of-34 from the line.
“Our kids work on it every day,” Hamilton said.
Thornton just beat the 35-second shot clock with a 30-foot turnaround jumper that gave Florida State a 68-57 lead with 4:09 left.
“That was definitely a momentum swinger,” Thornton said.
“He made the shot on the baseline, he made the shot from halfcourt,” Greenberg lamented. “He’s one of the toughest matchups in the conference.”
The Seminoles built a 34-18 lead in the opening 14:41 by hitting 10 of their first 15 shots from the field and making all 10 free throws.
“When they tried to go zone in the second half we were able to get the ball inside to him,” Hamilton said of Thornton.
Douglas, who scored 14 points in the first half, keyed a 20-5 run that gave the Seminoles a 17-point lead late in the half.
But like just about everyone else, he could only shake his head about Thornton’s performance.
“I’ve never seen someone score 27 points in the second half—not in college,” Douglas said. “He knew the game was going to come to him and he took advantage of it when it came.”