January 24, 2020 - by
Sold-Out Arena, Primetime Tip Awaits No. 5 Noles Vs. ND

WATCH: FSU Men Set To Host Notre Dame

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Given a week to get comfortable with its No. 5 national ranking, the Florida State men’s basketball team will soon play in a home atmosphere befitting their new status.

The Seminoles, ranked in the top five for the first time since 1972, will play host on Saturday to Notre Dame in a rare Saturday night game at the Donald L. Tucker Center (8 p.m., ACC Network).

Student tickets for the game sold out days ago, and seats for the general public went not long after. Which means that the Seminoles will be playing in front of a sold-out arena for the first time in nearly a year.

And they’ll do it against a Notre Dame team that’s lost three of its last four games.

They Seminoles have played in loud home environments before, but, as sophomore Devin Vassell noted, the biggest buzzes have sometimes been reserved for when a Duke or North Carolina is on the opposing sideline.

This time, the home team is the main attraction.

“For all the fans to show up just for us, it’s crazy,” Vassell said. “It just shows the impact that we’ve had on Tallahassee and where this organization is going. It’s going in the right direction.”

Vassell is right, but, in truth, the Seminoles have been formidable in Tallahassee for quite some time.

FSU is unbeaten at home this season, went 15-1 at home in 2018-19 and is an eye-popping 58-3 since the end of the 2016 campaign.

That’s among the best home marks in the nation during that span, practically by default.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton credited his team’s home success to a fan base that has become increasingly enamored with basketball in recent years.

“Our fans have motivated us and given us that sixth man in the stands,” he said. “They’ve given us the energy when we’ve needed it. and we have played hard enough and won enough games that I think they get excited. And in turn they’re motivating us and inspiring us with the fact that they’re so supportive.

“I’m excited that we seem to have a love affair going with our fans. We are so appreciative because now we’re starting to give people a little dose of the medicine that we get when we go on the road. And that’s just what the doctor ordered.”

But none of FSU’s recent success, whether in the national polls or in their home arena, is a guarantee of anything in the future.

Hamilton, Vassell and redshirt sophomore Malik Osborne all said Thursday that the second the Seminoles lose their drive and focus is the second they’ll end up on the wrong side of a disappointment.

And they’ll have to be sharp to contend with Notre Dame, which, despite its pedestrian overall record, has productive players in both the front and backcourt.

Senior forward John Mooney (6-9, 245 pounds) averages a double-double (15.7 points, 13.9 rebounds) and leads the country in rebounds per game, while sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb ranks fifth in the ACC in both 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made.

Hubb leads an Irish attack that is among the most 3-point heavy FSU will face this season. Notre Dame has attempted 523 shots from distance this season – 29th most in the country and second in the ACC – and has converted 34.6 percent of them.

“They’re tremendous perimeter shooters,” Hamilton said, “but they’re also very good penetrators and create off the dribble and attack the basket very well. …

“They’ve got a double-double machine inside who has been consistent with that effort all year long. I’ve never been on a team with a person that averages a double-double. That’s a special gift that he has, that we need to be concerned about.”

Koprivica close; Williams doubtful: One promising might return to the lineup on Saturday, while another is likely to miss the game.

Hamilton confirmed that center Balsa Koprivica is “very close” to a return after missing the last few weeks with a back injury suffered against Georgia Tech late last month.

Forward Patrick Williams, however, is doubtful with a sprained toe.

The 7-foot-1, 260-pound Koprivica will be a welcome addition to an FSU frontcourt that has pieced together a post presence in his absence.

As for Williams, Hamilton said that FSU’s fourth-leading scorer doesn’t have a serious injury but that the team’s training staff is leaning on the side of caution.

Hamilton allowed an outside chance that Williams could feel better by Saturday, but said he wasn’t optimistic about those chances.

“It’s not any more than that (sprained toe), the doctors are telling me,” Hamilton said. “But those are the kinds of things that are just aggravating and we want to try to give it some time to heal.”

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