Florida State looks to keep hope alive in ACC Tournament

fsu logoFlorida State has 19 wins, nine in the ACC, and a heartbeat or two left in terms of its NCAA Tournament hopes. But the ‘Noles (19-12, 9-10 ACC) will need to get past Virginia Tech (18-13, 10-8 ACC) on Wednesday in the second round of the ACC Tournament to keep that heart still beating.

Virginia Tech won the only meeting of the teams in 2016, 83-73, on Feb. 20 in Blacksburg, in a game that FSU led at the half, 45-37, but got torched defensively in the second half, allowing the Hokies to shoot 60.9 percent from the field.

“When we played them last time, I think we lead for like 36 minutes of the game, and they just kept coming at us. They had a spurt there where they made every shot. We had great shots. We didn’t finish our plays. That just said a lot about their determination, their focus,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said after the Seminoles had defeated Boston College, 88-66, in the tournament’s opening round.

That win for Tech jumpstarted a five-game regular-season-ending winning streak for the Hokies, who had lost seven of eight heading into that game.

The loss was the fourth in a five-game losing streak for FSU, which has rebounded to win its last three to keep hope alive.

“I think now as the season’s gone on, I think we’ve started paying attention to detail much more. I think we have grown more accustomed to moving the ball. I think with us moving the ball more, I think that has helped our defense,” said Florida State guard Devon Bookert, who scored a team-high 15 points in Tuesday’s win over BC.

“We’re playing a lot of team defense, help defense,” freshman guard Dwayne Bacon said. “When we were on the five-game losing streak, we really weren’t playing help, stuff like that. The last three games we’ve been playing a lot of help-side defense and helping each other as a team.”

Lessons learned from Virginia Tech, perhaps?

“Buzz has them playing 40 minutes of basketball. I thought we played 36. I thought that was the difference in the game,” Hamilton said, harkening back to the teams’ first meeting.

“They’re a good basketball team. They really responded very well. They give tremendous effort. They got quality depth. They can keep everybody fresh, they can play with a tremendous amount of energy. They’re a good basketball team. Even the games they’ve lost, they’ve played everybody very tough. This is a good basketball team, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for them,” Hamilton said.

– Story by Chris Graham

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