Watkins scores career-high 34 as Florida State eliminates Virginia Tech from ACC Tournament

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jamir Watkins scored 12 of his career-high 34 points in the final three minutes, Jalen Warley added 18 points and No. 9 seed Florida State pulled away in the second half to beat No. 8 seed Virginia Tech 86-76 on Wednesday in the second round of the ACC Tournament.

Watkins was 9 of 15 from the field and 14 of 17 at the free-throw line to set a program record for points in an ACC Tournament game. He also had 11 rebounds and four steals. Warley made 8 of his 10 shots as Florida State shot 54% from the field.

Virginia Tech was 4-of-17 shooting in the opening 17 minutes of the second half. The Hokies also finished with 13 turnovers, leading to 25 points for the Seminoles.

Florida State (17-15) advances to play top-seeded and fourth-ranked North Carolina in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The Seminoles dropped both regular-season meetings with the Tar Heels, 78-70 on the road and 75-68 at home. Florida State hasn't beaten North Carolina since the 2020-21 season.

Tyler Nickel sank a long 3-pointer with 7:28 left to tie it at 57-all, but Virginia Tech did not make another field goal until Sean Pedulla’s basket with 2:42 left to pull within 71-62.

Florida State took advantage of back-to-back Virginia Tech turnovers with layups by Warley and Primo Spears to take a 63-58 lead with 5:01 left. Another steal under the basket led to Warley’s fast-break layup to make it 68-58 at 3:06.

Each team turned it over on an inbounds play and Watkins was fouled before making two free throws at 2:49. Watkins added two more free throws at 2:30 and had an alley-oop dunk at 2:11 for a 74-65 lead.

Spears finished with 10 points for the Seminoles.

Pedulla scored 24 points, Nickel added 18 and MJ Collins had 15 for Virginia Tech (18-14).

Both teams shot 55% or better from the field in the first half. Virginia Tech shot 64% (16 of 25), despite going 4 of 11 from 3-point range, in the first half before finishing at 49%.

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