LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It’s only mid-January, but the Florida State men’s basketball season has already wound through enough twists and turns to fill a movie script.
The Seminoles finished the 2015 calendar year on a six-game win streak, only to then start off 2016 by dropping their first three ACC games.
Now, less than a week removed from their first 0-3 ACC start in nearly a decade, the Seminoles are feeling good again after back-to-back wins over NC State and then-No. 11 Virginia.
And they’re hoping this latest plot twist sees them through to the end of the season.
“We’re up right now,” freshman guard Dwayne Bacon said. “So we’re just trying to stay up.”
As well as the Seminoles played against Virginia – the second half of Sunday’s 69-62 win might have been their best stretch of the season – they won’t have room for any letup when they visit No. 16 Louisville on Wednesday night.
Not only will the Seminoles (12-5, 2-3) have to contend with Louisville (14-3 3-1) on the Cardinals’ home floor, but they’ll also be up against a team playing its first game in nearly a week.
FSU, meanwhile, will be on its third game in seven days.
As usual, the Cardinals have plenty of athleticism and are among the top defensive teams in the country.
Behind a ferocious full-court press, Louisville allows opponents an average of just 57.8 points per game – second fewest in the nation – and limited Pittsburgh to 28.6 percent shooting their last time out.
“They like to cause a lot of havoc with their press,” FSU senior Devon Bookert said.
“The more I watch them, the more I realize the challenge,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “This is a typical Louisville team that’s very well-coached, loaded with talent. They give you a lot of looks offensively and defensively.”
A defensive resurgence has coincided with FSU’s recent change of fortune, too.
Hamilton’s trademark during his tenure at FSU, the Seminoles’ defense mostly went missing during losses to Clemson, North Carolina and Miami.
But FSU has since turned it around, forcing 12 turnovers from NC State and nine from Virginia, and holding each team under 40-percent shooting, something it hadn’t done in any of its previous five games.
Unsurprisingly, the Seminoles offered a simple answer when asked how they plan to keep the good times rolling on Wednesday.
“We’ve just got to come out and play defense,” freshman guard Dwayne Bacon said. “With our defensive principles and the history that Florida State has behind their defense, if we come out and do that every game, we can compete with anyone. “
The Seminoles are nearing the end of a stretch in which they’ll have competed with the best teams in the nation.
Since hosting North Carolina two weeks ago, FSU has played ranked opponents in three of its last four games, and, between Louisville and Pittsburgh, it will play two more before the week is over.
That’s a daunting run for any team, but, after beating Virginia, the Seminoles proved to themselves that they have what it takes to compete at a national level.
“Beating a ranked team just gives us more confidence to go into the next game,” Bacon said. “Getting the opportunity to play these ranked teams, we don’t want to take it for granted. We want to come out and play our principles and do what we know we can do.”