TSX Hoops: Florida State
The Seminoles had it made, leading by 18 points against the rival Hurricanes, but FSU's crowd and team turned silent as Miami rallied within three points, before FSU answered on a game-sealing possession in the final 30 seconds.
"It was a must-win game," said guard Deividas Dulkys, who scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half. "You can't lose at home. If you lose at home, you don't go to the NCAA Tournament. It was our 20th win and our 10th win in conference, so it was big. We knew we had to win."
The Seminoles may still need to win one more, either by upsetting North Carolina in FSU's home finale on March 2, or by winning on the road at N.C. State on March 6. That would probably assure a favorable seed in the NCAA tourney among at-large teams, no matter how FSU fares in the ACC Tournament.
"It's a time of the year that we've accomplished something," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We still hopefully have a lot more basketball to play."
The Seminoles don't know when they'll play again, if at all, with junior forward Chris Singleton, who continues his recovery from a broken foot. In his absence, this team has gone to a three-guard lineup and teams have reacted with more matchup zone type of defenses. When FSU can hit the perimeter shots, the loss of Singleton looks less glaring.
--With its win against Miami on Feb. 26, FSU jumped four spots in the RPI, moving from 52nd to 48th. This makes the Seminoles the third-highest rated ACC team behind Duke and UNC.
--The Seminoles used the game against Miami to celebrate a reunion of their 1972 team, the only one in school history to reach the Final Four and play for a national title. FSU lost to UCLA in the title game. That team's coach, Hugh Durham, all of his assistants and all but one member of that team came back for the special event. Ron King, the star shooting guard from that squad, wore an all-yellow suit, similar to the all-gold suit he wore when having his jersey retired at FSU in 2009.
--The Seminoles win against Miami assured the third consecutive 10-win ACC seasons. It's the first time that's happened since FSU joined the ACC in 1991-92.
BY THE NUMBERS: 53 -- Number of ACC victories Florida State has amassed since the 2005-06 season. It ties FSU with Maryland and ranks only behind Duke and North Carolina as the most among ACC teams during that span.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think we need to start taking any bows at this point. We can't let ourselves get too excited because we have a nationally-ranked team coming here next that embarrassed us. We've got to stay humble." -- Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, following his team's win Feb. 26 against Miami.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs North Carolina, March 2
KEY MATCHUPS: The Seminoles' final home game is a rematch of one of FSU's worst losses of the season. On Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 6), the Seminoles were "embarrassed" in the words of Coach Leonard Hamilton in a 89-69 loss at North Carolina. In that game, the Seminoles' lone solid performer was forward Chris Singleton, who is now out indefinitely with a foot injury. To make this more challenging, North Carolina's front court tandem of Harrison Barnes and John Henson both produced double-doubles in that game. The Seminoles' defensive plan has to start with stopping those two, putting the emphasis on Bernard James and Okaro White to do it. The Seminoles made only 4 of 21 shots from 3-point range. Without Singleton, the one NBA level player capable of matching someone inside, this figures to be a tough challenge for the Seminoles. Should they pull off the upset, their place in the NCAA Tournament is secure.
--at N.C. State, March 6
KEY MATCHUPS: Depending on what happens against the Tar Heels, this final regular-season game could be significant for the Seminoles' seeding in the ACC Tournament and as a possible closing argument for the NCAA Tournament selection committee. It's the only matchup this season with the Wolfpack, which may be fighting for head coach Sidney Lowe's future. The Seminoles' main challenge will be N.C. State's talented freshman forward, C.J. Leslie, who has lived up to advance billing as one of the top players from the 2010 recruiting class. He scored in double figures in six consecutive games, before getting held to just three points in the Feb. 26 win against Georgia Tech. N.C. State has quality guards, led by Scott Wood and Tracy Smith. The Wolfpack could need this win to secure a winning season.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshman F Okaro White hit the biggest shot of his brief career, banking in a shot with 31 seconds to go, after Miami cut FSU's lead to 62-59 in the Feb. 26 game. White finished with 17 points and seven rebounds as he continues to help fill the void left by Chris Singleton's injury.
--Junior G Deividas Dulkys has been reinserted into a starting role in absence of Chris Singleton and stepped up his game. After poor shooting originally cost Dulkys his spot in the starting five, he has hit 11 of 25 shots from 3-point range in the team's last four games.
"My teammates never gave up on me and kept looking for me. I'm happy I'm back," Dulkys said.
--Sophomore F Terrance Shannon (knee surgery) and junior F Xavier Gibson (broken hand, partially torn knee ligament) both returned to action against Miami, but with minimal success. Gibson failed to score and Shannon had just one point.
--Junior C Jon Kreft, despite his 7-1 frame, continues to be a non-factor. He scored only one point in five minutes against Miami. When signed out of Chipola Junior College, the Seminoles had hoped he would come in and be an immediate factor. It has not happened.
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