Semi­noles up­beat about per­for­mance, po­ten­tial

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Sports - By Chaunte’l Pow­ell Or­lando Sen­tinel

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 top­five 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 field­goal 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 dou­bledigit 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.”

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