Good Fight

During his career at Florida State, forward <b>Michael Joiner</b> has endured three losing seasons, two head coaches and several peaks and valleys, both on and off the court. It's a ride Joiner wants to end on high note, and a ride he doesn't want to end tonight when the Seminoles play host to Iowa State in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.

Florida State is nearly a week removed from their 91-84 double-overtime victory at Wichita State. The statement made in that game was evident to Michael Joiner as well as FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team battled back from 14 down and forced overtime on a Tim Pickett jumper in the closing seconds.

"We learned we can fight," Joiner said. "If we stick together and play hard good things can happen."

In one of his last games as a Seminole, that sentiment was a first. That type of fight was missing in his first two seasons when FSU was a combined 21-48. Steve Robinson was replaced with Hamilton the following season and FSU's fortunes have steadily improved.

"There were some trying times," Joiner said. "We've started to turn things around."

But once the 'Noles started winning, Joiner role saw his role change. The former Mr. Basketball in North Carolina, heavily leaned upon for offense as a freshman and sophomore, became the second option when Pickett arrived as a JuCo transfer a season ago. His 6.1 ppg average this season is the lowest of his career.

Exit the scoring column, enter the dirty work.

"His contributions go beyond the box score," Hamilton said. "Mike gives tremendous effort and hustle every time out."

Chores like hitting the offensive glass, playing solid defense and getting after loose balls are Joiner's specialty these days. And it's a role he embraces.

"Coach always talks about sacrifices," said Joiner, one of two seniors on team who have played their entire careers in Tallahassee. "The rebirth of basketball is beginning here and I'll be proud to say I helped turn things around."

The contest against the Cyclones gives Joiner what may be his final chance to play at the Leon County Civic Center. The Seminoles lost to Duke on Senior Night last month.

"It's another opportunity to play in front of the home fans," he said. "It's going to be a great feeling to play for these fans who have brought a six-man type of feel to the arena this year."

A victory could give Joiner, Pickett and company one additional home game later in the week. The winner of the game will face either Marquette or Boise State in the quarterfinals. The site will be announced Wednesday morning.

Pickett credits Joiner with an assist in his efforts to but Seminole basketball on the map.

"Mike has been here through the downfalls and he can really say when he leaves here that he accomplished something," Pickett said. "Every year he has been here it's been a step higher and the program has been rising. I know he's going to have no regrets here and he enjoyed what he accomplished here."

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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