Thursday’s contest at Littlejohn Coliseum may not have been a must-win for Florida State. But after a 62-50 loss at home to a Virginia team on Saturday that had just been beat by 35 points at Tennessee and lost its best player, Joe Harris, two minutes into Saturday’s contest, it was pretty close.
On the road against a Clemson team that Florida State defeated three times a season ago, the Seminoles hardly put on an offensive performance for the ages. What FSU did do however, was get back to the way that it had become accustomed to winning games and that was with defense.
In a 56-41 victory to even its ACC record at 1-1, the Seminoles held Clemson to just 30 percent shooting from the field while forcing 18 turnovers. The 41 points was a season-low for the Tigers and the fewest allowed by Florida State since yielding just 38 to Hartford more than three years ago.
It’s not a surprise that Leonard Hamilton’s team can still defend, but what FSU did prove on Thursday night was that the Seminoles are a pretty resilient bunch.
Despite having only three players in the nine-man rotation beyond their sophomore year, Florida State has managed to avoid letting one poor performance turn into two or three.
In Saturday’s loss, FSU could not have looked much worse on its home floor. The Seminoles not only struggled to get shots to go in, they struggled to get shots period. Florida State turned the ball over 16 times and shot a dismal 31 percent from the floor. FSU never mounted a serious rally and 29 minutes in, had just 23 points and trailed by 22.
Thursday’s performance however, wasn’t the first bounce-back effort we’ve seen from Florida State this season. After letting a big lead slip away in a game in Puerto Rico against Michigan, the Seminoles found a way to rally late two days later against Northeastern, 62-60.
After dropping a heartbreaker to Florida and a road game to Minnesota that was not decided until the final two minutes, Florida State reeled off four straight victories with the most notable being a 60-55 win over previously undefeated UMASS. That remains the lone loss of the season for the Minutemen.
For Florida State’s ability to bounce back, head coach Leonard Hamilton certainly deserves a lot of credit as do Florida State’s only two four-year seniors. While Okaro White is FSU’s most steady player and unquestioned leader, it was Ian Miller on Thursday that stole the show. Miller finished with a game-high 15 points and recorded five of the Seminoles’ nine assists.
White and Miller have each been a part of FSU teams that went deep into the NCAA Tournament and most notably, the 2011-12 squad that won the ACC. Their leadership will continue to be key as the season moves along.
Although the 2013-14 college basketball season has yet to hit the midway point, getting a win on Thursday to avoid falling to 0-2 in conference play was huge for Florida State. With a beefed up ACC that now includes Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame, a lot of adversity looks to stand between the Seminoles and a fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six years. If Thursday’s contest at Clemson is any indicator, FSU appears up for the challenge.
After getting its first ACC road victory of the season on Thursday night, FSU will eye its first conference home win on Sunday as it plays host to Maryland. The Seminoles took both meetings from the Terrapins a season ago.