TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State men’s basketball team is getting ready to tangle with a cat.
Make that the Cat.
In Anthony “Cat” Barber, North Carolina State has what FSU coach Leonard Hamilton believes is one of the fastest, most agile players in recent ACC history.
He’s also the league’s top scorer, with his 22.94 points per game nearly 2.5 points better than the No. 2 player (Duke’s Grayson Allen, 20.5 ppg).
So Hamilton expects the Seminoles to have their hands full when they visit NC State on Wednesday (9 p.m., ACC Network, The CW in Tallahassee).
“’Cat,’ that’s a great name for him,’” Hamilton said. “Because he’s quick as a cat. I guess that’s why they call him Cat Barber.
“He has exceptional ball-handling skills. The ball comes back to him very fast and he never really seems to lose control of the ball. He’s just a natural dribbler and when he changes directions, he has pro-like ball-handling skills.”
And if that’s not enough, the Wolfpack also boasts the league’s top shot-blocker in Beejay Anya, who swats 2.88 shots per game.
But like the Seminoles, NC State’s talented roster has yet to translate into wins on the floor, at least not in the ACC.
Both teams are 0-3 in conference play and looking to reverse their recent fortunes.
“I’d like to think that the fact that we’re 0-3 in the league (means) our guys have that sense of urgency,” Hamilton said. “Unfortunately, the Wolfpack will have that same sense of urgency.”
The Seminoles swung between opposite ends of the spectrum in losses to North Carolina and Miami last week.
Against the Tar Heels, FSU at times scored at will, matching its third-highest point total of the season (90) while making 10 3-pointers and shooting 50 percent from the field in the second half.
The only problem was that the Seminoles didn’t do much on the other end. Led by a history performance from forward Brice Johnson (39 points, 23 rebounds), UNC shot an astounding 65.7 percent in the second half and cruised to a 106-90 victory.
Saturday in Coral Gables, FSU had one of its better defensive efforts of the season, only to see that effort undermined by inefficiency on the offensive end.
Hamilton estimated that the Seminoles posted a few “kills” – stretches with at least three straight defensive stops – and even once held the Hurricanes scoreless on five straight possessions. They just never could turn those stops into points of their own and Miami cruised to a 72-59 win.
“We’ve got to start putting it together where we’re playing defensively, sticking with the game plan and being efficient, finishing off or taking advantage of opportunities on the offensive end Hamilton said.
“Against Miami, we had 22 layups and they blocked one shot, but we still were not very assured of ourselves or as focused finishing our shots as we have to against a very good team on the road.”
Also on the agenda: Starting faster.
The Seminoles have fallen into early double-digit deficits in each of their last three games. And while they rallied in all three, they believe that the energy used to make those comebacks left them vulnerable as the games wore on.
Senior Montay Brandon said there hasn’t been a common thread among the slow starts.
“I think it’s something different every time,” he said. “But we feel like every day in practice we’ve been more efficient and trying to focus on coming out and starting off early.”
If they can do that, then perhaps they’ll have that elusive first conference win in hand by the time No. 11 Virginia visits on Sunday.