TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State will enter Atlantic Coast Conference play off to one of the best starts in school history.
The 21st-ranked Seminoles got a career-high 19 points from Terance Mann on Monday as they took control in the second half for a 76-68 victory over Samford.
Florida State has won eight straight and is 12-1 for only the third time, matching the 1988-89 and 2008-09 squads.
Even though the Seminoles are ranked and off to a strong start, Mann said that might not mean a lot in a couple months unless they can play well in the conference.
"You can't make the tournament winning 12 games. We know we have to keep winning," Mann said. "We haven't done anything really in five years. We just got to keep getting better and prove to the world that we're here and we're good."
Mann, whose previous career high was 18 last season against Georgia Tech, is on a roll. The 6-foot-6 sophomore guard is averaging 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in his past three games along with going 17 of 23 from the field.
Samford led for most of the final five minutes of the first half before FSU scored the final five points to go up 31-27. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who scored 15 points, had the key shot with a 3-pointer at the buzzer that bounced in off the rim.
The Seminoles scored the first six points to start the second half, pushing the lead to double figures. Florida State led by 17 with 6:12 remaining after a 12-2 run.
FSU shot 42.2 percent from the field (27 of 64), which was its second-worst shooting game of the season.
"It's a learning experience and preparing us for the ACC," Rathan-Mayes said. "We did a good job of relying on our defense. I don't think there are too many nights where we are going to struggle like that offensively."
Christen Cunningham led the Bulldogs (7-4) with 16 points while Demetrius Denzel-Dyson added 14.
"We gave ourselves chances but we battled," Samford coach Scott Padgett said. "I've got a play card with 150 plays but I think we ran just one tonight. It was tough to drive inside."
Samford: The Bulldogs are 17-9 in nonconference games over the past two seasons but are 0-2 this season against teams currently ranked in the Top 25 (they lost to Cincinnati 70-55 on Nov. 23). Samford was picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference but might exceed expectations based on how it has done so far.
Florida State: The Seminoles struggled in the first half for the second straight game before pulling away in the second half. If it weren't for blowing an 18-point, second-half lead on Nov. 24 against Temple, Florida State would be undefeated going into the Atlantic Coast Conference part of its schedule.
HOT IN DECEMBER
Florida State has won 12 straight games in December and 16 of its last 17. It has also won 17 of its last 18 non-conference games in the month.
Each team's leading player struggled. Florida State's Dwayne Bacon, who came into the game averaging 17.2 points, scored 14 but was 4 of 15 from the field.
Samford's Wyatt Walker, who is averaging a double-double with 13.7 points and 11.6 rebounds, was held scoreless in the first half. He had eight points and four rebounds.
Samford: The Bulldogs host Florida A&M on Thursday. It is the first of two more nonconference games before they open Southern Conference play Dec. 31.
Florida State: The Seminoles begin ACC play Dec. 28 against Wake Forest. They are 9-16 in conference openers.