SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida State (12-2) used a 20-3 run midway through the second half to turn a five-point deficit into a 12-point cushion and held on for the 82-69 win over Western Kentucky University (7-4) on Sunday evening at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. The game was the first of two contests on the night that make up the 15th annual MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic.
This marked the first meeting between the two programs since the 1993 NCAA Tournament in which the Seminoles edged the Hilltoppers 81-78 in overtime in Charlotte, N.C. in the Sweet 16.
WKU opened on a tear, scoring 16 of the game's first 20 points to lead by 12 with 14:44 remaining in the first-half on an Orlando Mendez-Valdez three-pointer. The senior from San Antonio, Texas canned his first three attempts from long range and finished with 14 of his career-best 25 in the opening frame. Mendez-Valdez finished 7-of-9 from the three-point line to tie an Orange Bowl Classic record for treys in a game by an individual.
Both teams went scoreless over the next three minutes before a pair of Toney Douglas free throws started a 10-2 Seminole run. Douglas capped the spurt with a three-pointer, part of his 11 first-half points. He would finish with a game-high 27 on 8-of-11 at the charity stripe.
After leading again by seven with 6:04 to play, Florida State used a 16-3 run to charge in front 35-29 with just under three minutes left in the half, taking a 37-34 advantage at the break.
Again, the Toppers opened the half strong, scoring eight of the first 10 points to push back in front 42-39 on one of two free throws from Sergio Kerusch. But after maintaining the lead, by as many as five at 51-46 with 12:15 to play, Florida State scored 11-straight, keying a 20-3 run that decided the game. An offensive stick-back from Chris Singleton with 5:07 left was the exclamation point as the Seminoles made it 66-54.
WKU cut it to seven at 72-65 with 2:34 remaining, but were unable to get any closer and FSU stretched out the final margin at the free throw line.
The depth of Florida State's bench resulted in a 39-7 edge in points. After turning the ball over five times in the opening six minutes, the Seminoles committed just four miscues the rest of the game.
AJ Slaughter added 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting for the Hilltoppers while Steffphon Pettigrew had nine and Kerusch chipped in eight points and seven boards.
Chris Singleton contributed 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three blocks in 29 minutes off the bench for Florida State while Ryan Reid and Derwin Kitchen each added 11 points.
WKU returns home for just the second time since December 2 as the Hilltoppers will host Troy University in a Sun Belt Conference clash on Thursday, January 1 at 1:00 PM at Diddle Arena.