Seminoles upbeat about performance, potential
FSU ready to face Pitt after almost upsetting No. 1 Duke
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida State Seminoles had one of the toughest starts to conference play of any team in the nation after facing two of the top-five teams and a school rival.
The No.13 Seminoles (13-3) finished 1-2 during that three-game stretch after taking top-ranked Duke (14-1, 3-0 ACC) down to the wire before falling 80-78 Saturday at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The mood in the locker room was disappointed yet motivated, according to FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton. He added the week showed him a few things about his team.
“I think we still have a lot of room for growth. No question about it, we’re getting better,” he said. “Against a high quality program like Duke, it lets you know where you are in terms of competing against the top teams in the country.”
So far the Seminoles rank sixth in the ACC in scoring, ninth in both rebounds and team field-goal percentage, fifth in free-throw percentage, seventh in blocks and second in steals. Trent Forrest is tied for second in the conference in steals with 2.2 per game.
Just three games in, FSU has already seen many of the conference’s leaders in every statistical category. Monday the challenge continues as the Seminoles take on unranked Pitt (11-5, 1-2 ACC) that only lost to No. 15 NC State by six points during the weekend.
FSU faces a Pitt team featuring Xavier Johnson, who is third in the ACC in assists; Terrell Brown, who’s third in blocks; and Trey McGowens, who leads the conference in steals with 2.3 per game.
Both teams enter the game 1-2 in conference play and Hamilton said the Seminoles need to leave Pittsburgh with a win.
“Winning the ACC’s regular season conference championship, it’s as much mental and emotional as it is physical. So we’ve got to make sure that we recharge our batteries and get focused again because we can’t go on the road now and come back without a ‘W.’ We need to even ourselves out,” he said.
Though tied for ninth in conference standings thus far, FSU is one of six ACC teams ranked in the AP top 25. After Saturday’s thriller at the Donald L. Tucker Center, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said the conference is brimming with talent.
“That was a great basketball game and you’re going to see more in our conference,” he said. “You may have seen more, I don’t know any scores or anything from today, but there’s just too many good teams.
“We could have double-digit teams in the NCAA [Tournament]. This is a heck of a conference. It always has been and this year it’s exceptional. There’s no question about it.”
Hamilton echoed those sentiments leading up to Saturday’s game, adding that it’s a special conference.
““Every year in our league, you’re always going to have someone from the ACC ranked in the top two or three teams in the country,” he said. “This year happened to be Duke and Virginia. That’s why kids come to ACC. It’s one step below the NBA and I think it’s the greatest college basketball conference in the history of college basketball.”