BLACKSBURG, Va. — Bernard James and Florida State knew they had gotten away from their bread-and-butter "junkyard defense," and had a 20-point blowout loss at Clemson in their ACC opener to show for it.
For one night, at least, they got back to doing what they do best.
James had 18 points and 14 rebounds and the Seminoles held Virginia Tech to 30.5 percent shooting and survived a furious comeback by the Hokies to win 63-59 on Tuesday night.
"That's how we started off the year and that was us all of last year, playing that junkyard defense," James said of the defense that had led the nation the past two years. "We kind of let it slip."
Ian Miller added 15 points for the Seminoles (10-6, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who tied a school record with 15 blocks and improved to 14-12 in ACC road games the past four seasons.
In the closing minutes, James — a 26-year-old, six-year Air Force veteran — had two huge putback dunks, and Okaro White hit a pair of clinching free throws with 5.5 seconds to play.
"The refs weren't whistle-happy tonight. I love those kind of games," James said. "I can take a beating as long as I can give out one."
The Hokies (11-5, 0-2) lost their first two games in league play for the first time since the 2005-06 season. They trailed most of the game against the Seminoles' ACC-best field goal defense before rallying behind Erick Green, who scored 19 of his 21 after halftime, including the Hokies' last eight.
"It didn't seem as fast on the film," he said of Florida State's defense.
Florida State led almost throughout, but the Hokies closed to within 54-51 on consecutive baskets by Jarell Eddie and Dorian Finney-Smith. But Michael Snaer hit a free throw, and after a miss by the Hokies, James ripped a rebound out of the hands of Hokies freshman C.J. Barksdale under the basket and dunked it with two hands while being fouled. His free throw restored the lead to 58-51.
"If you don't box me out, that's going to happen every time," James said.
Green scored for the Hokies, but James again dunked after grabbing an offensive rebound, making it 60-53.
Then Green took over, scoring in the lane and following a free throw by Luke Loucks with four of his own to pull the Hokies to 61-59, the smallest margin of the second half. When Miller's jumper for the Seminoles was well off the mark, the Hokies rebounded and called timeout with 17.8 seconds to go.
Green's driving shot, however, missed, Florida State rebounded and White clinched it with two foul shots in the final seconds.
Throughout the second half, the Hokies kept getting close, but the Seminoles always came up with the key basket.
The Hokies closed to 42-38 with 11:46 to play, but Snaer scored on an open layup, and then followed a one-handed miss by Dorenzo Hudson with a two-handed dunk for the Seminoles. After a miss and turnover by the Hokies, Miller scored from the wing, making it 48-38.
Green, the Hokies scoring leader, answered with two free throws and a 3-pointer, halving the lead, but the Seminoles' Jeff Peterson beat the shot clock with a twisting drive. Two more free throws by Green with 7:28 to play pulled to Hokies to within five again.
The Seminoles led 14-4 early, getting 3-pointers from Snaer and Loucks for their first two baskets. After the Hokies closed to 17-13, Florida State used an 8-1 run to regain command. Florida State's Deividas Dulkys had five blocks in the opening half.
The Hokies, meanwhile, had 10 shots blocked, eight turnovers and shot 18.8 percent (6-for-32) in the half.
Follow Hank on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr