Florida State plays at Auburn on Jan. 3 in the final non-conference game of the season, before resuming ACC play Jan. 7 against Virginia Tech. The whole storyline with this team has remained constant ... and familiar. The Seminoles can defend as well as any team in the nation, but continue to be dragged by ineffective shooting.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton hopes the team's best performance of the season, an upset win against Baylor on Christmas Day in the final day of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, was the start of a brighter future.
"Our execution is getting better," Hamilton said. "We're getting more production out of our inside game. We cut down on our turnovers, which meant we were getting the ball inside and guys were getting to the foul line."
The Seminoles averaged 69 points in the four-game span, which started Dec. 18 in California with a game against Loyola-Marymount. Defense has remained the bedrock of this program. Florida State ranked second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense through Jan. 2.
But the lack of offensive flow has sent Florida State fans grumbling that Hamilton cannot produce an exciting team to watch. Hamilton has preached patience as he develops a rotation.
"As a coach, I don't put a whole lot of stock into that at this time of the year," Hamilton said. "I think we have a whole lot of time to develop. We are more concerned about getting better -- sometimes it's not how you start, it's how you finish. We think we have potential to finish real strong."
--The Seminoles had a team meeting following an awful shooting performance Dec. 23 in the loss to Butler at the Diamond Head Classic. The meeting must have worked. FSU outrebounded Baylor by 14 boards, and finally had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (17-15) in the win over Baylor.
"We just put everything out on the table," Bernard James told the Tallahassee Democrat. "The point was brought up that everyone was walking on egg shells and it was holding us back. We were being honest with one another and saying exactly what needed to be said and I think it worked."
--Florida State is the ACC leader in blocked shots with 98. The Seminoles are averaging more blocked shots this season (7.0) than they did last season (6.3) when they also led the ACC in blocked shots.
--F Chris Singleton has scored in double figures in five of his last six games (90 points, 16.0 points per game) through Jan. 2 and is shooting .500 from the field (31 of 62) since the team's Dec. 12 win over Clemson.
BY THE NUMBERS: 58 -- Total number of wins for FSU in the past three seasons, which is the second-highest total among ACC teams. Only Duke has won more games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are a work in progress but we have a chance to develop into a very good team. We are going through growing pains but this was a Christmas present to ourselves. Hopefully this will be the start of something good for the rest of the year." -- Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, after his team's win over Baylor on Christmas Day in the final game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Auburn, Jan. 3
KEY MATCHUPS: This is only the second meeting between these teams in the past 11 years. FSU beat Auburn 76-72 on Dec. 17, 2009, but many of the top scorers in that game are no longer either team. The Seminoles will have to contain Auburn's backcourt, led by guard Frankie Sullivan, who scored 17 points in last year's meeting and scored a season-high 14 points against South Carolina-Upstate on Dec. 21. The Tigers (6-7) are struggling to build their program under first-year coach Tony Barbee, hired last March from Texas-El Paso. The Tigers moved into a $90 million, 9,600-seat arena this year and it's hoped that will help jump-start its basketball program. Given the timing of this game, it's uncertain what kind of crowd the Tigers will attract.
--at Virginia Tech, Jan. 8
KEY MATCHUPS: It's all about stopping Virginia Tech senior guard Malcolm Delaney, who leads the ACC in scoring with a 19.9 scoring average. His 31 3-point field goals are tied for the most in the league. He withdrew his name a year ago from the NBA draft, after learning he wouldn't be a first-round pick. In this game, the Seminoles will likely match up Chris Singleton, the ACC's top defensive player, against him.
FUTURES MARKET: With starting center Xavier Gibson out indefinitely with knee and hand injuries, it has increased the role of junior college transfer Bernard James, who has been profiled on ESPN for having served in the Air Force in Iraq. James, a 6-foot-10 junior, played at Tallahassee Community College last season. He produced his best game, a 15-point, 10-rebound effort in the win over Baylor on Christmas Day in the final game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. It was the second double-double for James in four games. He was tied for the team lead and was tied for fourth in the ACC with 30 blocked shots and a 2.1 blocked shots per game average through Jan. 2.
--Junior C Xavier Gibson is expected to miss at least six weeks after suffering a broken left hand and multiple strains in his left knee at the Diamond Head Classic. Gibson went down in the second half of FSU's Dec. 23 semifinal loss to Butler. He had started all 13 games for the Seminoles prior to his injury and was sixth on the team in scoring with 6.9 points per game.
--Freshman G Ian Miller remains sidelined with a groin injury. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said he was unsure when Miller would be able to play again. He missed the Seminoles' last five games through Jan. 2.
--Junior G Deividas Dulkys made only one of 18 shots from the field during the three-game tournament in Hawaii, missing 14 of 15 shots from 3-point range.
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