TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A little more than a year ago, the Florida State men’s basketball team took a 6-1 conference record and a No. 6 national ranking to Atlanta, where it was to face a Georgia Tech team in the midst of a middle-of-the-road season.
The Seminoles came out flat, got down big early and left with a humbling 78-56 defeat.
With that experience and a similar scenario ahead – FSU has won three of its last four ACC games heading into Wednesday’s contest at Wake Forest (8-13, 1-8) – the Seminoles don’t plan to make that mistake again.
“The record that they have doesn’t mean a thing,” senior guard Braian Angola said. “Last year we had the same problem. We were playing against Georgia Tech and we were No. 6 in the nation and they beat us. In the ACC, no games are easy.”
Although Wake showed early signs of life with a close loss at North Carolina and a win over Syracuse, the last few weeks have been particularly difficult.
The Demon Deacons have lost seven straight games, the last three by double-digits.
But, as FSU coach Leonard Hamilton was quick to remind, Wake has faced a gauntlet of a schedule, even by ACC standards.
The Deacons have already played Duke twice, as well as Virginia, UNC and Louisville.
“If you go and look at their game films,” Hamilton said, “what you see is they might get down, and they’ll come back and (then) they’re playing great teams even for 75 percent of the game.”
A closer look at Wake’s film also reveals a talented roster that’s led by Doral Moore, the 7-foot-1 junior center who averages 10.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
If Moore met the minimum criteria for the ACC’s leaderboard, his .717 shooting percentage would rank as the best in the conference.
“He’s improved as much as anybody I’ve seen in basketball, period,” Hamilton said. “This year, he scored more points than his first two years (combined). He’s an exceptional athlete, tremendous shot blocker. Leading the league in field goal percentage, leads the nation in dunks. And they have four or five guys that are outstanding perimeter shooters to go along with him.”
While Hamilton is pleased at Florida State’s offensive efficiency of late – the Seminoles have scored no fewer than 88 points in four of their last five games and have topped 100 twice during that span – he also believes that success in March will hinge on defense.
The Seminoles’ 74.0 points average points per game allowed ranks 14th in the ACC, ahead of only Wake Forest.
“I’m not real pleased with where we are defensively,” he said. “We just can’t seem to get the necessary stops. Our offense has been efficient enough for us to win games, but we have not been getting the stops that I think are necessary in order for us to keep being successful.”
Making progress at Wake would be a fine place to start, because the road ahead gets much more difficult: at Louisville, home to No. 2 Virginia, at Notre Dame, and home against No. 20 Clemson.