TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s young men’s basketball team received a difficult lesson in ACC competition on Saturday, and the Seminoles will have to learn from it quickly.
Because a little more than 48 hours after suffering a 84-75 setback at Clemson, the Seminoles are already due back in action.
And a home date with the No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels is on deck.
“We’ve just got to put (Clemson) behind us,” senior Montay Brandon said. “One game, first game in conference play, it’s not the end of the world. But we know we need to come out against Carolina and bring it.”
Which is something they didn’t do against the Tigers.
Florida State seemingly had everything it needed to start conference play with a valuable win on the road.
The Seminoles were riding a season-high, six-game winning streak and had just won at rival Florida with a late game-winner by freshman Dwayne Bacon.
And Clemson was reeling, having lost three straight and four of five.
But the Seminoles came out flat and trailed for most of the game before the Tigers pulled away.
“We didn’t have the same focus or energy we had for the Florida game,” Brandon said. “After a big game like Florida, you have to be able to refocus yourself and be ready to go back to battle with another team that was desperate and hungry. They looked a little hungrier than we did.
“Any team in our league can beat anybody on any given night, especially on their home court.”
Two days later, the Seminoles will hope that maxim holds true in their favor.
It wasn’t all that long ago that FSU regularly got the better of the Tar Heels, winning four of six meetings between 2009 and the 2012 ACC championship game.
Since then, though, UNC has reeled off five straight victories in the series.
Which means that everyone on Florida State’s roster is looking for his first victory over the college hoops heavyweight.
“We’re trying to prove to people that we’re a really good team,” FSU freshman Malik Beasley said. “And I think this is the perfect opportunity to show it.”
As usual, the Tar Heels are loaded with talent. They’ve got five players averaging at least 12 points per game (although junior forward Kennedy Meeks is expected to miss the game with an injury) and are the seventh-highest scoring team in the country (86.5 ppg).
And Florida State’s already thin front court will have its hands full with a UNC stable of forwards that, not including Meeks, has five players who stand at least 6-foot-8.
Senior forward Brice Johnson leads the way in both points (15.3 ppg) and rebounds (9.7), and senior guard Marcus Paige isn’t far behind.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, will be without 7-foot-1 Michael Ojo (knee) and 6-8 Phil Cofer, who is due to have ankle surgery on Monday.
So it could make for a busy night for FSU’s remaining big men.
“Every year, (UNC’s) identity is running the ball, offensive rebounds and pushing it,” Brandon said. “That’s their identity. They’ve been doing it since Dean Smith, so we know what we’re getting ourselves into.”
The Tar Heels, have, however, been vulnerable on the road.
Their two losses came at Northern Iowa and at Texas, and they’ve yet to win a true road game this season.
Beasley said he’s looking forward to seeing the atmosphere inside the Donald L. Tucker Center, which is usually packed and loud when the Tar Heels come to town.
“I can’t wait to see what Tallahassee has to bring to the table for basketball,” Beasley said. “Most people know Florida State for football, and I think this is our chance to show that we’re dominant in both sports. So I can’t wait to see the fans and the support that we have.”