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Responding to respite

The game was sloppy and Florida State was uninspired at times, but the Seminoles posted their 15th victory Sunday, defeating Savannah State 88-73.

The win over the Tigers (1-22), while seemingly effortless and never in doubt, was a milestone. Florida State surpassed last season's win total and assured itself of the best record since 1997-98, when the Seminoles reached the NCAA Tournament after finishing 18-14.

Florida State was coming off a three-game span in which it upset North Carolina and Wake Forest _ Top 10 teams at the time _ in Tallahassee and came within two points of tying top-ranked Duke in the final minute Thursday before falling 56-49 in Durham, N.C.

Because of the emotional highs and lows of that ACC stretch and the fatigue that came with it, Savannah State was an opportune respite.

And it showed.

"We've had three really emotional games, and like most coaches, I would like for us very much to be at that pitch every game, and sometimes that's difficult," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We were not nearly as emotional as we had been the last several games.

"It was obvious we were not quite as sharp."

FSU's reprieve from conference play is short. The Seminoles (15-6, 3-4 ACC) play host to No. 14 Georgia Tech Tuesday at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, a game that could prove crucial for their tournament hopes.

Florida State, which has not won a conference road game since 2001, has to make up some ground at home. And a third consecutive win against a top-tier conference team in Tallahassee could provide a much-needed boost to their tournament credentials.

"Now everything is a must-win if we want to move into the NCAA Tournament," said Anthony Richardson, who scored 14 in his best game since being benched during FSU's four-game skid in January.

"Fifteen wins are real big, but they are just wins right now. We need to get the ACC wins."

Florida State was outrebounded 50-42 and Savannah State, a Division I-A independent, had a 14-8 scoring advantage off offensive putbacks. The Tigers scored nearly half of their points on 3-pointers, hitting 11-of-22 as the Seminoles left the perimeter largely unguarded. Savannah State entered the game shooting just 27 percent on 3s.

Tigers guard Jamal Daniels had 18 points and seven rebounds. Donald Carson and Sherard Reddick each had 11. Reddick also had seven rebounds.

Hamilton, however, was not concerned. He said giving his already deep bench extended minutes may have hurt Florida State's continuity.

For example, guard Tim Pickett, the top scorer, played only 16 minutes despite scoring 24 on 9-for-16 shooting (6-for-10 on 3-pointers). Starting point guard Nate Johnson, who has an injured knee, played just 11.

Freshman center Alexander Johnson scored 14 and forward Michael Joiner had 12 points and six assists, both playing 16 minutes.

"It became apparent that to compete at the level we want to in the ACC, we need a rotation and a little more productivity from our younger guys and non-starters," said Hamilton, whose Seminoles had 33 bench points. "I think we accomplished that, but we were not nearly as smooth and efficient with our nonstarters.

"Hopefully this will help us down the road."