Noles Return to Conference Play

One of Florida State basketball coach Leonard Hamilton's favorite mantras involves refusing to allow the name on an opponents jersey have an effect on motivation.

As the Seminoles embark on a critical three-game stretch opposite some of the Atlantic Coast Conference's less formidable foes, that philosophy appears appropriate.

The Seminoles (9-7) – fresh off a surprising 82-69 win over Florida – return to conference action Saturday night when they host Virginia Tech (6-5) at the Tucker Center. Winnable games against Clemson and at Miami await next week.

The Hurricanes, Hokies and Tigers were picked to round out the ACC's cellar in the preseason media poll.

"Hopefully the bumps and bruises that we have experienced so far will be something that we look back and say was a plus for us as we move into ACC play," said Hamilton, whose team has won three of four after a rocky start.

"We have been challenged mentally and physically and hopefully it has not broken our confidence but now we have a better idea of how we need to compete going into the ACC because now it really gets tough."

Hamilton's Seminoles have flashed impressive potential against bigger-name opponents Florida and Maryland. FSU lost 90-88 in overtime against the Terps in the their conference opener.

But they've also played to the level of Florida International, Kent State and Texas A&M –Corpus Christi in head-scratching defeats.

"I don't think we came with all the focus we needed in those game," senior forward Adam Waleskowski said. "Hopefully we have that behind us."

Recording a few conference victories during the next week would go a long way for an FSU team that must face four teams currently ranked in the top ten (No. 3 North Carolina, No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 5 Duke and No. 9 Georgia Tech) in a span of five games starting Jan. 18.

"I have to say that we are a team that need to continue to keep working on maturing and growing up and understanding more and more of how we need to play at this level," Hamilton said. "I have always told people, coaching their minds is probably more important at this point than coaching their bodies and we have struggled more with that."

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