Previewing Florida State

Florida State (17-11, 5-9) is reeling after five straight losses. Pack Pride takes a closer look at tomorrow's opponent -- tip-off is at 1:00 p.m.


    G- 3 Isaiah Swann
    G- 10 Ralph Mims
    G- 25 Jason Rich (6-3, 200, Jr.)
    F- 12 Al Thornton
    F- 41 Uche Echefu

    Al Thornton - Thornton has to be the favorite for the ACC Player of the Year Award. A dynamic scorer, he is a major matchup problem for opposing power forwards. He is coming off a 23-point, 15-rebound performance in the loss to Maryland.

    For Maryland, Wednesday night's home game against Florida State was a tale of two halves. Three Terps starters, Ekene Ibekwe, D.J. Strawberry and Mike Jones each had two fouls and totaled only 23 minutes before halftime.

    After playing only eight minutes with no points in the first half, Strawberry came out after the intermission with three straight baskets, sparking a 16-2 run that carried the Terrapins to a 73-55 win.

    Strawberry finished with 10 points in 20 minutes on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. Bambale Osby came off the bench to spark Maryland with a team-high 15 points, while Jones added 14 and James Gist 13. The Terps shot 57 percent in the second half.

    While Maryland was heating up, Florida State went cold. The ‘Noles, who went to the locker room with a 31-31 tie at the break, missed their first 11 shots of the second half and never recovered.

    Following two free throws by Isaiah Swann, FSU trailed 43-33. However, Maryland answered with a basket by Ibekwe and Strawberry's short jumper for a 14-point cushion. Florida State cut the deficit to 9 points with 9:23 to play, but could get no closer.

    The Seminoles shot only 27 percent in the second half, including 1-of-10 from the arc and finished at 34 percent for the game (17-50). Al Thornton had 23 points and 15 rebounds for the ‘Noles who dropped to 1-and-6 on the road in the ACC.

    If the Seminoles don't end their nine-year NCAA Tournament drought this year it will probably be because they failed to win enough close conference games. Five of FSU's nine ACC losses have been by six points or less.

    Thornton is the engine that powers FSU and he's strictly high-octane. An All-America and ACC Player of the Year candidate, Thornton is the league's No.2 scorer. He has the talent to take control of a game and has done so on several occasions this season.

    The high-scoring senior's latest big explosion was on February 17 when he torched Virginia with 30 points and 16 rebounds in a 73-70 road loss. He leads the ACC in scoring in conference games (22.4) and seems to elevate his level of play against the league's best teams.

    Thornton has averaged 25.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in five games against North Carolina, Boston College, Virginia and Virginia Tech. At UNC, he had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

    The 6-7 senior can also score in bunches. Thornton recorded 15 consecutive points in the loss at Virginia, nine straight against UNC and 10 of FSU's last 12 points in a December upset of then No. 4 Florida.

    It seems the longer the season goes the better Thornton gets. He has recorded 20 or more points in 10 of his last 13 games. Thornton also ranks in the league's top-10 in field goal percentage (.518), free throw percentage (.813), rebounding and offensive rebounding (3.1). Plus, he has scored in double figures in every game this season.

    Swann has also elevated his play lately. The veteran is averaging 15.3 points and nearly 3 rebounds over his last 4 games.

    Lately, FSU has been hurt by the absence of point-guard Toney Douglas. The 6-1 sophomore suffered a fracture of the fourth metacarpal bone in his right hand in the second half of a loss at Clemson on Feb. 7 and probably won't return until the ACC Tournament.

    At the time of his departure, Douglas, who had started 24 straight games, was the ‘Noles No.2 scorer (13.1). He was shooting 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from the 3-point arc.

    Counting the loss at Clemson, FSU has dropped five straight games since Douglas was forced to the sidelines. Reserve guard, Ralph Mimms, the backup for Douglas all season, is now running the offense, but it has not been the same.

    In the last four games, Mimms has averaged 6.3 points, 3.0 assists while shooting only 27 percent from the field (6-of-22). FSU coach Leonard Hamilton has also called upon freshman Josue Soto and Swann to play at point guard, but none of them have been able to completely fill the void. Swann leads the team in assists.

    Offensively, Florida State can be dangerous from 3-point range. Against ACC opponents, the ‘Noles lead the league in 3-point shooting (.388) and they trail only Virginia in 3-point field goals per game (6.9). The In addition to Thornton, the Seminoles top long range gunners are Jason Rich (.424) and Swann who leads the team in 3-point attempts and makes (43-119).

    Defending the 3-point shot is also an area where the ‘Noles excel. Florida State is holding ACC opponents to a below-average 35 percent from the bonusphere. Overall FSU gives up 73 points and 47 percent shooting to ACC opponents.

    Keeping the Seminoles off the foul line makes a big difference. Florida State is among the nation's top free throw shooting teams (.771) and is shooting an incredible (.783) from the foul line in ACC games.

    Hamilton does not appear to be substituting as liberally as he has in the past, but uses a nine-man rotation. Only Thornton averages more than 30 minutes a game.

    The Wolfpack beat FSU at home last season 86-64. The Seminoles have beaten the Pack only once in the last 15 games of the series. State is 2-4 this season in ACC road games, dropping its last three.


    Al Thornton

    Jason Rich, Uche Echefu

    Isaiah Swann, Ralph Mims

    NC State athletics and AP contributed to this report.

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