The Seminoles (8-5) and their fans were hoping the final game of December would ring in a more hopeful new year.
Instead, it only made the outlook worse.
In what will be archived as one of the worst losses in coach Leonard Hamilton's tenure, the Seminoles played poorly in all phases and lost a stunning triple-overtime game to visiting Princeton, leaving the team speechless and FSU supporters already thinking about when baseball season begins.
Right now, the basketball season has a dire forecast with ACC play ready to start on Jan. 7 at Clemson.
"When you look back at the history of college basketball, there have been a lot of teams that have to have one of those come-to-whatever meetings and look yourself in the eye and say, ‘No more,'" Hamilton said. "Hopefully we're at that point, and if we're going to salvage the remainder of the season, we're going to have to get to that point."
Whatever goodwill Hamilton bought with fans last year, whatever spark of interest this program generated, the past two months have produced a giant backward step.
FSU does not have a quality win on its non-conference resume, but has losses to Harvard, Princeton, and blowout defeats to Florida and Michigan State. It was not the kind of season Hamilton or FSU supporters expected with a team filled with six scholarship seniors and just two players from last year no longer on the roster.
"You normally would get great leadership," Hamilton said. "Those types of teams, with that level of experience, are normally the kinds of teams that you like to coach. They respond without a whole lot of prodding and pushing, because they have been through the wars. This team, we have not grown to that point yet."
He's got to figure out a way to get it changed. Very quickly.
NOTES AND QUOTES
As expected, FSU unveiled a different lineup in its last game. The Seminoles played with three guards -- Luke Loucks, Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys, along with forward Xavier Gibson and center Bernard James. But with the exception of Snaer, who scored a team-high 20 points, this group did not show any change from the big lineup.
The Seminoles had more turnovers (11) than points (10) in their incredibly bad first half against Princeton. They missed 20 of their first 24 shots from the field and were outrebounded 23-18 by a much smaller team.
It stunned Hamilton, who thought his team was ready to play.
"I thought we had great practices this week, some of the best practices we've had all year," Hamilton said. "We had an excellent scouting report, a tremendous game plan, that we only executed after halftime. … The positive I take away from it is I think our issues are more mental and emotional than they are physical." ...
The Seminoles' woeful start of the season comes against a favorable schedule. After playing Auburn on Jan. 4, the Seminoles will have played 11 of their first 16 games at home, including their first six games.
What's more, they've only made one long trip, and that was to face Michigan State, a blowout loss, in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The other road games were a two-hour bus trip to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators and an easy plane trip to the Bahamas to play three games in a Thanksgiving weekend tournament. They did not play a ranked team at home.
This will change quickly. Their first two ACC games are on the road. When that's done, FSU will face North Carolina and Maryland at home, then go to Duke. The Seminoles will know real quick whether they will be competitive in this league, or struggle to avoid a losing season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4/26 -- In one of the more disbelieving, yet true, statistics for Florida State, the Seminoles scored less than 26 points in the first half during four of their past five games through Jan. 1. This included the shocking 10 points scored, a school-record for futility, against Princeton and 14 against Harvard.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In order for us to be the type of basketball team that resembles what we've been doing the last number of years, we have to find a way to rejuvenate that spirit."—FSU coach Leonard Hamilton on his team's need to play harder.
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