TSX Hoops: Florida State

One week later, the Seminoles' season and outlook has taken on a completely different image. It couldn't get much brighter right now. What a contrast after Florida State (13-5, 3-1 ACC) pulled off a national shocker on Jan. 12 with an upset win over Duke that was seen on national cable television.

Three days later, the Seminoles followed it up with a convincing 84-71 win against North Carolina State that may have been their best offensive performance when factoring in the competition.
  "I really feel like our youngsters have been very attentive in practice," coach Leonard Hamilton said. "They still have that embarrassment of Virginia Tech (a 71-59 loss in Blacksburg on Jan. 8)  They came back and regrouped. Sometimes it takes a loss like that to bring a team together.
  That defeat may have been a crossroads moment. A team meeting ensued, a candid assessment was delivered, and according to the players, there was a different mind-set moving forward.
  "We were dead out there," forward Bernard James said. "We were just going through the motions. And we paid for it."
  James, who turns 26 on Feb. 7, spent five years in the Air Force and has become the team's unofficial leader and mentor. It's been a uneasy transition, since he played in junior college last year. But after learning the level he needed to play, James has averaged a near-double-double as a starter in the past six games.
  "We see the potential, but I'll be pleased when we put a string of consistent performances together," Hamilton said. "That's what we need in the ACC race. I was proud of the way we responded, but we need to use this as a measuring stick for how we perform each and every night.
  "This is not time of year that you need to be taking any bows. I feel like it was an important win for our players, but I want to keep it in perspective."
  As Hamilton knows, things change quickly week to week with these two-game sets in the ACC. But the win against Duke, happening in front of a sellout crowd, changed the Florida State fans' view on how Hamilton was doing with this team, this season. There is a completely different vibe.
  Now, the Seminoles have to continue to back it up with solid performances at Miami, then in a home game Jan. 22 against Boston College. The Seminoles are in position to have a 5-1 league start, something that would vault them into contention for the league regular-season title. Remember, they don't have to face Duke again and don't have to travel to Boston College this season.
  It's a much different vibe than existed a week ago.

NOTES, QUOTES
  --The Seminoles' 3-1 start in ACC play was their best four-game start in nine seasons under coach Leonard Hamilton. The 84 points they scored against North Carolina State was also their highest score in an ACC game in three years.
  --Florida State's win against Duke was the school's fourth against a No. 1-ranked team. It was the third such feat under Hamilton, who has now defeated Duke twice and North Carolina, all at home. It was the 19th win against a ranked team under Hamilton.
  --The Seminoles' defense continues to amaze. Florida State limited N.C. State to 26 percent shooting in the first half. Through Jan. 16, the Seminoles had held 85 of their last 86 opponents to less than 50 percent shooting.
  BY THE NUMBERS: 116 -- Blocked shots for the Seminoles this season through Jan. 16. Florida State led the ACC in that category and joined Maryland as the only two ACC teams with at least 100 blocked shots and 100 steals.
  QUOTE TO NOTE: "I realize this team has this kind of potential, and as a staff, we have to create that magic mind-set that you have to be in in order to go out and consistently play with that competitive spirit every game." -- Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
  THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
  --at Miami, Jan. 19
  KEY MATCHUPS: The series has been dominated by Florida State since Miami joined the ACC. The Seminoles have won eight of the last nine games, including a sweep last season. Their only loss was in 2009 at Miami. A big factor is that Florida State normally has a huge crowd from its south Florida fan base that attends the game in Miami, making it more of a neutral-court setting. Leonard Hamilton' previous college head-coaching position was at Miami, when he helped revive the program. After getting their first ACC win Jan. 15 against Boston College, the Hurricanes should be confident and charged up to face their state rival. Florida State's big issue in this game will be containing Miami guard Malcolm Grant, the seventh-leading scorer in the ACC through Jan. 16 and a strong 3-point shooter. Miami has struggled with injuries to frontcourt players, and this will be area that Florida State could look to exploit. The Seminoles should figure they can run plays for their big men, especially with the way Bernard James has played recently.
  --vs. Boston College  Jan. 22
  KEY MATCHUPS: Unlike in recent years, Boston College doesn't present the same grind-it-out defensive style that Florida State has utilized. In fact, the Eagles were 10th in the ACC in scoring defense through Jan. 16, next-to-last in field-goal percentage defense. But the Eagles are a veteran team with three of the top 20 scorers in the ACC. Senior Reggie Jackson was second in the ACC with a 19.5 average, and second in assists. This will be a difficult guard matchup for the Seminoles, who figure to keep Derwin Kitchen on him.
  FUTURES MARKET: Junior guard Deividas Dulkys has given the coaches an encouraging sign with improved shooting touch. After making just four of his previous 30 attempts from 3-point range, Dulkys was on target against N.C. State. He made two of three from long range, three of four from the field. His improved scoring is vital if the Seminoles are to continue freeing Chris Singleton and Bernard James in the scoring lane.
  "I told Deividas 'Welcome back' in the postgame meeting," coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It was nice to see him with a smile on his face. He's been knocking down his shots in practice, just not in games."

PLAYER NOTES
  --F Terrance Shannon was in the starting lineup for the Seminoles' past two wins through Jan. 16. He scored 12 points against N.C. State. He also made a style adjustment, cutting off his dreadlocks.
  --F Chris Singleton had a streak snapped against N.C. State. After scoring 17 or more points in the previous five consecutive games, he had only 11 against the Wolfpack.


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