TSX Report: FSU Hoops

After grinding out a victory Dec. 12 against Clemson in their first ACC game, the Seminoles prepared for the next portion of their schedule. It includes a trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 23-25). That will be the prelude to going full bore in ACC play.

But the Clemson win on Dec. 12, a second-half comeback win, was vital, because it was a home game against an equally-struggling ACC team.

The Seminoles now have a good frame of mind heading into their holiday tournament.

The same challenge faces FSU as in previous years. Can this team shoot well enough to contend for an upper tier finish in the ACC? As good as FSU plays defense, which is as good as any team in the country, the Seminoles don't have a playmaker on offense and commit too many turnovers. It often leads to plodding performances.

But FSU coach Leonard Hamilton believes the offense will develop.

"I think a lot of that is more mental than it is anything else," Hamilton said. "As long as we keep working, I'm sure that our offensive game is going to come around. I think our youngsters are playing unselfish, I think we're executing better, and I think we're getting pretty good shots. If we just continue to keep executing, and keep getting good shots, I feel confident those shots are going to start falling."

The players say it will happen. "It's going to click," junior shooting guard Deividas Dulkys said. "That's all it is, just clicking. Everybody getting together as one. We've got all the parts. We've just got to put it together."

This is a familiar pattern. During an early season stretch a year ago, this team went four consecutive games scoring 60 or less points. The previous year it was a stretch of three consecutive games of 62 or less points.

The 44 points FSU scored in a Nov. 30 game against Ohio State was the Seminoles' lowest point total since a 1997 game against N.C. State.

"We've got to make sureand improve on the offensive end," Hamilton said. "We're sitting down and analyzing the shortcomings we have got to address."

--Defense continues to save the Seminoles. Despite their shooting woes, Florida State is off to a solid start by virtue of its suffocating defense. The Seminoles exited their Dec. 12 game against Clemson as the nation's leader in field goal percentage defense (.316) and blocked shots (8.3 bpg). They ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense (56.6 ppg) and tied for 23rd in steals (9.6 spg). FSU has allowed only one opponent over the last 78 games to shoot 50 percent or better from the floor.

--F Chris Singleton is the only FSU player in school history with at least 150 steals (151) and at least 100 blocked shots (117). He's off to another strong start this season in both categories. He's the leader of this team, the one player being scouted right now for possible NBA draft status. His defensive efforts are key to creating transition baskets and emotional surges with this team. Singleton, however, is not a go-to offensive player, which is why this team has struggled at times on the offensive end.

PLAYER TO WATCH: F Bernard James, 24, spent five years in the Air Force, after enlisting at age 17, then earning his high school GED while in the military. He continued his love for basketball and earned a scholarship to Tallahassee Community College, where he blossomed into a player worthy of playing major-college basketball. His maturity and tenacity are two big attributes that have helped the entire program. He earned his first start against Hartford on Dec. 5 and responded with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but didn't start in the Dec. 12 game against Clemson. He is tied for the team lead with 22 blocked shots, which is tied for third in the ACC and tied for 20th nationally.

KEY CONFERENCE GAME: Jan. 12 vs. Duke -- This is the best ACC home game for the Seminoles until they face North Carolina in the home finale on March 2. It's FSU's chance to prove itself worthy, both to the league and to Seminoles' fans. The students will be back, the arena should be near capacity, the midweek game will be nationally televised in prime time (9 p.m.) on ESPN. The Seminoles will be coming off their second ACC game, a road trip to Virginia Tech, four days earlier. They will need to play well in this game to help boost confidence and set up the rest of the season. FSU has enjoyed some success against Duke in recent years, especially at home.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Once we get into the ACC schedule it won't matter whether a team was predicted to finish near the top or the bottom. Every night out it's going to be a typical ACC dogfight." -- FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton on his approach to ACC play.


2009-10 CONFERENCE RECORD: 10-6, third place

LINEUP BREAKDOWN: The Seminoles continue going with a three-guard lineup, putting their top player, 6-9 forward Chris Singleton, at the No. 4 position with 6-11 junior Xavier Gibson. Depending on the availability of junior college transfer Jon Kreft (7-0) or the continued progression of 6-10 JUCO transfer Bernard James, it might tempt FSU to go with a bigger lineup. The biggest problem with this team, as it has been in recent seasons, is a steady hand at point guard and a dependable outside shooter, who can nail shots off the dribble. The Seminoles commit too many turnovers and miss too many easy shots to be considered a really good team right now.


--G Deividas Dulkys (hand), who missed the Seminoles'Dec. 5 game against Hartford, returned to the starting lineup in the Dec. 12 game against Clemson. He had a finger injury on his non-shooting hand.

--C Jon Kreft continues to sit out for undisclosed reasons. He transferred from Chipola (Fla.) College, located about an hour from Tallahassee, after two seasons of junior college ball. But it could be an academic issue. It is believed Kreft will be declared eligible to play before the Seminoles travel to Hawaii for a Christmas tournament. FSU was counting on Kreft to provide some muscle and rebounding prowess underneath the basket.

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