TSX Hoops: Florida State
"Historically we have bounced back once we have laid an egg," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I hate for that to happen for us to focus."
The Seminoles (16-6, 6-2 in the ACC) will face a far different challenge on Sunday. They head to Chapel Hill for a game against the surging Tar Heels. North Carolina clobbered Boston College on Tuesday and this game begins Florida State's most difficult stretch of the season.
Four of their next five games are on the road. They need to go 3-2 in this stretch to secure a winning league record and put themselves in good shape for a 10-win conference mark that likely equates into an NCAA tournament bid.
"I thought the players really executed a lot better and executed our game plan," Hamilton said. "We need to take advantage of these next few days of practice because we have an awesome challenge on Sunday."
The Seminoles have rarely played well at North Carolina, so this game will be a good measurement of their progression.
Hamilton knows the final five weeks will be a free-for-all in the ACC with no dominating team.
"No one's out of it," Hamilton said. "People are stretching and clawing trying to get those byes and pad their resumes."
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Welcome back, Deividas Dulkys. After a two-month struggle that cost his starting position, the Seminoles' junior guard looked like his former self Tuesday night against the Deacons. He scored 16 points, his best production since a Dec. 12 game against Clemson, and was especially vital in the first half as Florida State again struggled with its shooting. But thanks to Dulkys, the Seminoles went on a 12-0 run to build a 31-19 halftime lead, despite shooting only 31 percent. In the second half, the Seminoles looked much smoother on offense and showed their ability to get into a rhythm. If this game builds Dulkys' confidence for the rest of the season, all the better for the Seminoles. Consider he had scored only 33 points in his previous 10 games.
--Freshman forward Okaro White made his first career start in place of injured Terrance Shannon, who did not dress because of a bone bruise in his leg. White played well, scoring eight points and having four steals. It's uncertain when White will be back.
--The MIA notice continues for junior forward Chris Singleton. He was only 2-for-11 from the floor and scored five points. This was his fourth consecutive game of scoring in single digits. This is one of the biggest reasons Florida State has been so sporadic lately with shooting touch. Singleton was supposed to have a big year to impress NBA scouts, but it has not happened.
--Freshman guard Ian Miller, who played last week for the first time after missing two months because of a groin injury, had a solid game. He matched his season high with 11 points, the only two times he's scored in double figures. Miller missed 12 consecutive games until returning last Saturday against Wake Forest.
--After no player scored in double figures in the road loss to Clemson, the Seminoles had five players in double-digits against Wake Forest. Bernard James had 13 points, five rebounds, two steals and only one foul.
--The Seminoles' bad performance at Clemson was an aberration, at least in recent years. They had won 10 ACC road games in the past three seasons. Only Duke has won more times on the road in ACC play. And consider this: The Seminoles once had a 26-game road losing streak in the ACC, one of the longest in conference history, earlier this decade.
--G Derwin Kitchen had averaged 14 points in the past four games, including 16 points in the previous game against Boston College. But he scored only six against Clemson, falling back in the previous trend of passing up shots. He attempted only four against Clemson.
--Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher, having finished recruiting, will attend the Seminoles' basketball game Feb. 1 against Wake Forest and will accept the Chick-fil-A Bowl Championship trophy at halftime from bowl president Gary Stokan. The Seminoles believed this was the best time to have the presentation, helping boost interest in both sports at the same time.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- Games this season where Florida State has shot less than 40 percent from the floor, including a woeful 32.7-percent effort against Clemson. Despite FSU's defensive prowess, this is the reason the Seminoles are so sporadic with game-to-game performances.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think our players have bought into our defensive system. They've been sound fundamentally with it and clearly believe if they play good defense they will give themselves a chance to win." -- Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton on his team's commitment to defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--at North Carolina, Feb. 6
KEY MATCHUPS: The Tar Heels have one of the better scoring offenses in the ACC but don't shoot 3-pointers well, which should provide a good matchup for the Seminoles. It will be a battle of front courts. FSU and North Carolina are 1-2 in the league in rebounding margin. Again, what kind of FSU team will show up? The Seminoles have really struggled shooting from the floor on the road, and that doesn't bode well going into one of the league's toughest homecourt venues.
FUTURES MARKET: What has happened to junior forward Chris Singleton's shooting touch? The Seminoles have to wonder. He scored just eight points against Clemson. It was his third single-digit scoring performance. He had just four points in the win against Boston College, eight points in the win against Miami. This was a guy that had only three single-digit games in the previous 18 this season. But for Florida State to play consistently and continue progressing, Singleton has to come out of his slump.
--Freshman G Ian Miller played his first game since Dec. 12, scoring six points against Clemson and becoming the only positive aspect of the Seminoles' performance against the Tigers.
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