TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State got almost everything but the right result during its visit to No. 4 Duke last week.
The Seminoles shot nearly 50 percent from the 3-point line, had twice as many assists as turnovers and were effective from the free-throw line.
They lost, 100-93, thanks in large part to Duke’s heavy advantage on the glass. But they also came away with the belief that, if they play like that on a nightly basis, they’ll win far more often than not during the course of their ACC schedule.
The No. 24 Seminoles will also get to test that theory quickly, as 12th-ranked North Carolina visits the Donald L. Tucker Center on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN2).
“Facing a team like (Duke) early is actually good for us,” said forward Phil Cofer, who had a career-high 28 points against the Blue Devils. “Because we get to learn what we do not need to do, and what we need to do, for our next game.”
FSU’s next game is the second of perhaps the most challenging five-game stretch that any team in the country will face this season: home against No. 12 UNC, a visit to No. 15 Miami and home dates against Louisville and Syracuse.
While they’re still plenty confident – a win at then-No. 5 Florida and last week’s effort at Duke have shown that FSU can compete with the nation’s best – the Seminoles need their strong performances to translate into wins, or they will risk falling into a hole in the ACC standings by mid-January.
Then again, as coach Leonard Hamilton often likes to say, there are no off nights in the ACC anyway. See the way Boston College beat Duke earlier this season and put a scare into No. 8 Virginia last week.
“We’re just trying to win each game,” senior guard Braian Angola said. “And (Wednesday) is our next game and most important game.”
It’s also the Seminoles’ next home game, which provides an extra measure of confidence.
FSU is riding a 27-game home winning streak that dates back to Feb. 27, 2016, and is the third-longest active streak in the nation.
“We have a lot of pride in that,” Angola said.
That streak will be tested by a UNC team that, despite losing several key pieces from last year’s national title-winning group, is 12-2 and again among the top contenders in the nation.
The Seminoles, however, might be catching the Tar Heels at a good time. Whereas UNC typically likes to work inside with a pair of talented post players, this year’s team has often employed a smaller lineup while waiting for their young forwards to develop.
While UNC seems a good bet to have any issues sorted out by March, the Seminoles could take advantage if they can force the Heels into some uncomfortable situations. Especially while playing at home.
“I think this game is definitely going to go back and forth. It’s going to be a fight,” Cofer said. “…They’re always going to bring it.”
And besides, it’s not as if the Tar Heels don’t have their typical wealth of talent. UNC scores an average of 86.5 points per game – 26th-most nationally – and, in junior forward Luke Maye (18.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg) and senior guard Joel Berry II, has one of the top tandems in the nation. They’re among four Tar Heels (Kenny Williams, Cameron Johnson) to average in double figures.
“They’re basically the same team as Duke,” Angola said. “They deny the ball pretty well. They rebound the ball pretty well. It’s another big test for us, and I hope we can do the same thig we did at Duke – just fight with each other and stay in the game and, hopefully, win the game.”