Florida State sophomore guard Von Wafer and sophomore forward Al Thornton, like so many of their youthful teammates, have lacked the maturity to play all out all game.
Predictably, they and the Seminoles have been up and down. But Wafer and Thornton sure picked a good time to grow up and grow into steadying forces.
Wafer scored a team-high 20, hitting 6 of 8 3-pointers, and Thornton added a career-high 17 points and nine rebounds as the Seminoles beat arch intrastate rival Florida 82-69 Sunday at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.
"I just felt a special feeling before the game, and I just wanted to give that to my teammates," Wafer said.
Apparently, he did.
"We definitely stepped up our play and our intensity," said Thornton, who missed the Jacksonville and Stetson wins with a sprained left ankle and failed to score in 12 minutes in FSU's lackluster loss to LSU on Thursday night. "It was a big game for me personally. Last game, I played like c---, so I felt like I had something to prove."
So did the Seminoles (8-6), who snapped a six-game losing streak to the Gators.
"This was a game that seemed to bring the best out of our team," coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I'm hoping a victory like this against a good team will give us confidence and help us become a team that plays with this type of consistent effort for the remainder of the year."
On this day, FSU outrebounded the Gators 44-20, 16-5 on the offensive end. The Seminoles had 20 second-chance points, the Gators five.
On this day, FSU hit 9 of 15 3-pointers (60 percent), season highs for number and percentage.
It didn't help the Gators (8-3) that junior guard Matt Walsh, their leading scorer (16.0 points), had to sit out after sustaining a high left ankle sprain late last week in practice. He had started all 74 games in his career and might not be back for Saturday's SEC opener against visiting Arkansas.
Sophomore Lee Humphrey filled in and played well, scoring eight of his 15 in the first half to keep the Gators close, 35-32 with a minute to go before the break.
But then senior forward David Lee, whom coach Billy Donovan later publicly challenged to do more, committed a foolish foul as senior forward Anthony Richardson dunked off a no-look pass from Wafer. Richardson completed the three-point play and, after a miss by freshman swingman Corey Brewer, he outraced the Gators for a fastbreak layup.
Thornton then stole the ball from freshman center Joakim Noah, who intentionally fouled him with 5.6 seconds left. Thornton made both free throws and Wafer capped a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer off the inbounds for a 45-32 halftime lead that brought the crowd of 6,632 to its feet.
"We made some freshmen mistakes; some guys made some ill-advised plays and kind of gave them a little cushion," Donovan said.
After a Lee dunk in the opening moments of the second half, senior forward Adam Waleskowski (who scored 18) had a three-point play, Thornton hit a short baseline jumper and Wafer hit a 3 to push the lead to 53-34 with 16:13 left.
"That's been probably the one thing that's missing, not having someone step up and give us some consistency while we're trying to grow up," Hamilton said. "We need that very much. Von gave us that tonight."
The Gators got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
"They're a very, very erratic shooting team and an erratic scoring team," Donovan said. "But when they do what they did tonight where a guy like Wafer gets off and a guy like Thornton plays well and Waleskowski plays well. Then they become a very, very outstanding team, in my opinion."