Williams, Walker carry load as Florida State survives Orange

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Florida State guard M.J. Walker (23), With a bandage covering the stitches in his lip from the first half, reacts after defeating Syracuse in NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. Florida State won 80-77. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – MJ Walker took an elbow to his lip and missed a large chunk of the game. But 12 stitches later, numb around his mouth, Walker’s shooting spoke volumes.

Walker scored 16 points, including five 3-pointers, as No. 8 Florida State played without star guard Devin Vassell and held off Syracuse 80-77 on Saturday.

“We were floundering a little bit,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “The game was somewhat in doubt and he put us on his shoulders. He made plays down the stretch. That says an awful lot about him.”

Florida State needed Walker, especially late. The junior guard drilled a 3-pointer with 4:19 left and then another 3-pointer with 2:36 to go — as he was fouled — and made the free throw to complete a four-point play. In a tight game, Walker’s shooting and defense helped the Seminoles win their 20th straight home game.

“It wasn't going to stop me from playing,” Walker said. “I felt good. I was still energized. I just picked up where I left off.”

Vassell was on the bench but did not play. The sophomore guard averages 13.4 points per game and Hamilton declined to discuss the reason why Vassell did not play.

Florida State won because of its trademark depth and defense. Freshman Patrick Williams came off the bench to play a season-high 32 minutes, scoring 17 points on 7-of- 14 shooting and pulling down seven rebounds for the Seminoles (21-4, 11-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Syracuse had a last-second shot, but Elijah Hughes missed a 25-footer that went off the rim and would have tied the game. Hughes scored 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting and added four rebounds, playing just over 39 minutes as he returned from a groin injury that limited him to 3 minutes in Tuesday’s home loss against N.C. State.