Blowout supplies much needed boost

With Florida State's NCAA Tournament résumé not looking very impressive coming into Wednesday's tilt, a beatdown of Auburn showed again how good the Seminoles can be when they play well.

This was exactly what they needed, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

The ‘Noles had been sliding and sliding fast. They had been losers of two straight and five of their last eight, including a triple-overtime defeat to Ivy League representative Princeton.

They needed something good to happen, and fast -- a sign sent from the heavens indicating that everything would turn around quickly.

That sign wasn't so much sent, but earned. A 50-point blitzkrieg in the first half gave the Seminoles a 34-point advantage after the first 20 minutes. The lead was never relented, resulting in a 85-56 triumph over Auburn on Wednesday night.

The win pushed Florida State's record to a decent 9-5, but the importance of the victory is more than a plus-one in the W column. A dominating performance can provide a team with the single most important intangible in the game of basketball: confidence.

Any player will tell you that maintaining a steady mind is key to being successful on the court. There are many trials and tribulations that an athlete faces over the course of a season. There are ups and downs, and there are good games and bad games.

Nonetheless, the players that are able to stay confident in their abilities are the ones that will be more successful than the ones that allow doubt to enter their minds.

That's easier said than done, of course.

Surely, the easiest way to maintain confidence is to win. Winning seems to solve all problems, and solve them quickly. Winning, if only for the moment, brings a team into a new state of mind -- a state of mind that allows the confidence gained in one game to build in each following contest.

"It's very important," said senior Deividas Dulkys. "Confidence is huge in the game of basketball. It now allows us to continue to build on it from game to game."

Continuing to build on the positives is going to be very important for the Seminoles. The "easier" part of the schedule is over, and they will now begin ACC play Saturday afternoon at Clemson.

The Tigers will pose a difficult challenge for FSU, but if the 'Noles play with the type of energy and focus that they did against Auburn, then they will be difficult to beat.

"Our team played with a much more aggressive mentality," said coach Leonard Hamilton. "Tonight, we were focused."

The aggressiveness shown by FSU in its latest battle is a mindset that must continue. Florida State doesn't have the facilitators or shot creators that other squads might enjoy, so it's imperative to bring drive and determination every night to make up for it.

"Overall, when you play with that kind of energy and intensity, your overall game comes together," Hamilton said.

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FSU's game did indeed come together in its latest victory. When a team experiences how well it can play, as the ‘Noles did, then the realization of how to do it again creeps back into their minds.

Any notion of doubt is now gone. This group of Seminoles now knows what it takes to be successful. An identity is beginning to take shape. They are beginning to understand what it will take for this year's squad to win.

That understanding results in a confident group right now. Florida State will begin its ACC schedule with an understanding of what it has to do to win consistently.

The question is: How long will things stay that way?

Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.

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