Jan. 20, 2014
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As pick-me-ups go, the Florida State men’s basketball team should be downright giddy about Tuesday night’s visit from Notre Dame. Not only are the Irish making their first trip to the Donald L. Tucker Center, they arrive playing a style that seems to suit the Seminoles well.
After playing four games against the three most deliberate offensive teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference – Virginia, Clemson and Miami – the Seminoles (12-5, 3-2 ACC) should have an opportunity to get out and run against the Irish (10-7, 2-3), who boast the league’s No. 2 scoring offense.
“We feel that we really excel in the open court and playing a fast-paced game,” FSU senior forward Okaro White said. “It’s going to be good that we can kind of get back to our identity.”
Coming off Saturday’s 12-point loss at Virginia – its second setback against the Cavaliers this season – Florida State welcomes the much-anticipated change in pace. The Seminoles’ 66 points in the road loss marked the most points they scored in the four games against the aforementioned three league teams, which is well below their season scoring average of 73.2 points.
“It’s in our DNA,” senior guard Ian Miller said of FSU’s preference for up-tempo play. “We want to have fun, but we need to win. You’ve got to protect your home and got to have a win because we’re still in a cluster (of teams) in the top share of ACC teams.
“The Virginia game was a little bit of a setback; a tough loss but we have a chance to get right against Notre Dame.”
Tuesday night’s game against the Mike Brey-coached Irish marks just the second meeting between the two schools. The first came during the 2011 NCAA Tournament, when the Seminoles scored a 71-57 at Chicago’s United Center to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
This time around they square off as conference opponents, each looking to join the top tier of the standings.
A substance-over-style guy, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton is preparing his team for a significant challenge.
“When you look at their film and try to evaluate them, their ability to score and shoot the ball as well as anybody in our league definitely gets your attention,” Hamilton said. “They’re a handful. I watched the Duke game and I was taken back as to how skilled they are offensively. … They have guys who can put it on the floor, guys that can shoot.
“They have our attention and we know we need to be at our best in order to be successful.”
Both White and Miller are confident that this years’ Florida State team is in a much better place mentally to bounce back after a difficult defeat. The Seminoles’ track record to date would seem to back that up. After suffering back-to-back losses at Florida and Minnesota, FSU rattled off four consecutive wins, and followed an ACC-opening loss to Virginia at home with three consecutive triumphs.
“We’ve been through it before,” White said, referring to how the team has responded after defeats. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We lost our first one and went on a streak, so it’s about going on another streak.”
When asked why his current teammates seem better prepared to rebound from defeats, Miller said:
“We’re just not wanting to be where we were last year at the end of the season. … We’re nothing like last year. This team is totally different. That’s why we’ve had different outcomes (after losses).”
White has had a lot to do with that, now that he’s accepted a more active leadership role.
“I want to stay on our younger guys,” White said. “Coach (Stan) Jones has a saying; ‘Breath championship air into your teammates.’ We just want to stay positive and make sure some of these guys who are down about losses understand that we’ve been here before and we still have a lot more season to play.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the ‘Noles are back home, where they are averaging nearly 81 points a game, including an 85-61 ACC rout of Maryland the last time they took the floor at the Tucker Center.