TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Leonard Hamilton knows that Louisville is 11-4 and out of the top 25. And he knows that the Cardinals will arrive in Tallahassee Wednesday (9 p.m., RSN) having lost two of their last three games. And he knows that navigating a coaching transition, as Louisville had to do in startling fashion before this season, is never easy.
Still, Hamilton can’t help but look at the Cardinals’ game tape and think that his No. 23 Seminoles will be in for yet another test.
“They were the (16th)-ranked team in the country in the preseason,” Hamilton said. “And they’ve still got the same players.”
Both the Cardinals and Seminoles will be looking to get back on track in league play after close losses over the weekend. Florida State dropped an 80-74 contest at Miami on Sunday night, while Louisville fell in overtime, 74-69, at No. 25 Clemson.
While Louisville lost the game, Hamilton said that the way the Cardinals played – they outshot and outrebounded Clemson, but fell victim to 21 turnovers – is the latest sign that they’re finding their footing under interim coach David Padgett.
Padgett took over following longtime coach Rick Pitino’s firing in September, but Hamilton said that the Cardinals’ schemes and strategies are the same as they’ve been in years past.
“They’re starting to really come together,” Hamilton said. “There’s a period of adjustment when you have a new coach … it just takes a little time. They’re seeming to start to gel.”
Added sophomore guard CJ Walker: “They still play hard. They’re still doing their thing. They still play well in transition, still got a good offense, still play aggressive on defense. Louisville is still a top team to play.”
Walker also said that the Seminoles are looking to take some of the lessons learned at Miami and apply them to Wednesday’s game. Chief among them: Not being too quick to fall in love with outside shots and instead look to create more drives to the basket.
It makes sense that the Seminoles would lean heavily on their perimeter shooting. They entered Sunday’s contest at UM having made a combined 45 3-pointers in their last three games.
But against the Hurricanes, the outside shots weren’t falling. FSU made only 5 of 24 shots from distance and shot 36.2 percent from the field.
“I feel like that (was) our biggest downfall,” Walker said. “We learned that from our last game at Miami – just to know that if we’re not hitting 3s, we’ve got to attack the basket, get easier shots, get to the free-throw line so we can see the ball through the hoop and get more confidence.”
FSU’s post presence got a big boost Sunday when Christ Koumadje, the 7-foot-4 junior center, returned after an extended absence due to a lower-body injury. While Hamilton said Koumadje is still working his way back into game shape, his impact was obvious – he grabbed eight rebounds and scored five points in only 13 minutes of action.
If the goal is to work the ball down low and use that in concert with the perimeter game, getting back Koumadje – who was the team’s sixth-leading scorer at the time of his injury – is a fine place to start.
“He’s going to solve a lot for us,” Walker said. “(Rebounding) still comes down to a team effort, boxing out, things like that. But I feel like with Christ, it kind of makes it easier. When the ball’s up in the air, who is going to be able to jump with him?
“I feel like that’s going to solve a lot of problems … more transition and more possessions for us.”