Once cresting with a series of emotional highs, the Seminoles (19-9, 10-4) now enter the final week of the season trying to regather themselves.
Their home loss against Duke on Feb. 23 -- one of the biggest games in the program's history -- led into a poor performance on Feb. 26 in a 78-62 loss at Miami. The 'Noles entered with a six-game win series streak against Miami, but the 'Canes dominated the game, even without their star center, Reggie Johnson.
If that doesn't get FSU's attention, consider the Seminoles must now go to Virginia on Mar. 1, which is going to be a more difficult situation given the Cavaliers' own need to win for NCAA tourney consideration.
"Sometimes it's not always that you're defeated, it's how you respond to it," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton prior to the Miami game. "We challenge our players to not necessarily accept the loss but understand, learn from it, grow from it, and let's go back and record and bounce back from a bitter defeat, hold our heads up high and move on."
Hamilton's words must have fallen on deaf ears.
The Seminoles lacked emotion and consistent effort against Miami, losing to a team that was playing without its best player. Hamilton faces an emotional regroup effort in the next two days of practices before this team leaves for Virginia. While the Seminoles have secured an NCAA Tournament berth with their wins and probable third-place finish in the ACC, they were hoping for a strong finish to gain a good seeding. They will need wins this week to get back on track.
So what happened? Well, the Duke game was an emotional stage the 'Noles have rarely enjoyed. Their fans sold out the arena days in advance, and the game was on national television. The toll from that game was greater than Hamilton probably figured. His program has not advanced enough to where players can put those elements aside and move on to the next game.
Plus, FSU has slipped back into its old bad habits with poor shots and confounding turnovers.
The issues have to be fixed quickly, or this team will go limping into postseason.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Here's how the Seminoles have risen in stature: Miami fans rushed the court following the Hurricanes' Feb. 26 win, which broke a six-game, four-year losing streak to their state rivals. The 'Noles were coming off a Feb. 23 game against Duke that featured an overflow crowd of more than 12,000 in FSU's Tucker Center. ...
Many of FSU's familiar problems reared back against the Hurricanes. The Seminoles were terrible in ball handling, committing 18 turnovers. They were 5 of 23 from 3-point range, and they were whistled for 29 fouls. It was easily a road woe that matched their meltdown at Boston College on Feb. 8 ...
Since winning a school-record seven consecutive ACC games, the Seminoles are 3-3 with some very bad losses at Boston College and Miami, plus the narrow escape at home against Virginia Tech, when they trailed most of the game and were down nine points in the final two minutes. They played well against Duke and solid on the road at NC State, but the other four games were plagued with poor shooting, poor offensive sets and a lack of emotion.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2/29 -- The Seminoles have now lost back-to-back ACC games for only the second time in four years. The last time was two years ago with losses to Maryland and North Carolina. One reason for the Feb. 26 loss to Miami? The 'Noles were called for 29 fouls, enabling Miami to take 34 free throws.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "And this time of year, you've got to stay focused. We still have a lot to play for, and we need to continue to keep getting better." -- Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton prior to his team's loss at Miami.
FSU's tourney seed still tenuous at best
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