TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Even after a disappointing setback at Syracuse earlier this week, it’s fair to say that the Florida State men’s basketball team has turned its season around since a loss at Miami last month.
After that game, a 72-59 loss that dropped FSU to 0-3 in ACC play, the Seminoles (16-8, 6-6 ACC) bounced back to win six of their next nine, which has them at .500 in the conference and in the thick of the postseason race heading into Sunday’s rematch with the Hurricanes (19-4, 8-3).
The game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPNU.
“They are such an improved team, a talented team and a team that plays better at home than they do on the road,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga told reporters. “They’ve changed quite a bit since the first time that we played them.”
The Seminoles, however, hope Sunday’s effort looks a little more like what led to their recent four-game winning streak, and a little less like the one that ended it Thursday in Syracuse.
FSU was able to string some wins together thanks to a fast, efficient offense, steady improvement on defense and increased contributions from some veterans.
All of those things went missing against the Orange: FSU’s offense crashed against the wall of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone while the Orange shot more than 60 percent from the field against the Seminoles’ defense.
The Seminoles were especially frustrated by their defensive lapses. They had held their previous nine opponents under 50-percent shooting, and Syracuse entered Thursday’s game as the only major-conference team in the nation to not shoot 50 percent in a game this season.
“I think we didn’t have energy,” Beasley said. “We were so focused on (Syracuse’s) zone, watching their zone, that we didn’t come out with energy on the defensive side.”
That lack of defensive intensity also hamstrung an FSU offense that’s at its best when forcing steals and scoring quick baskets in transition.
“Usually we’re deadly in transition and that starts with defense,” Beasley said. “We didn’t get any steals to get dunks or anything like that.”
But, as coach Leonard Hamilton is fond of saying, a team should never get too high when it wins, and never fall too low when it loses.
Especially with a date against the No. 11 team in the country up next.
“The good thing,” Hamilton said, “is we have a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Aside from a puzzling loss to NC State two weeks ago, the Hurricanes have mostly kept rolling since their first meeting with FSU.
Angel Rodriguez scored a last-second bucket to lift UM to a 65-63 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Center Tonye Jekiri, who had eight points and 10 rebounds against FSU, posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
The Seminoles, of course, will be hoping for a different result. Although Hamilton is not convinced FSU’s previous outing against Miami will factor much into preparations for the rematch.
“That was so long ago, I’m not real sure,” he said. “When you have a young team, you can’t take anything for granted. You can’t get philosophical. You’ve just got to be ready.”