No. 23 Florida State aims for 7th in row` (Dec 17, 2016)
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Back in the Top 25. Riding a six-game winning streak. And off to its best start in eight years.
All things Florida State isn't used to hearing in December. But those around the men's basketball program like what's being said.
"(This year), I like the energy, the camaraderie, the conversations they're having among themselves -- the coaching of themselves they're doing," Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "They're holding each other accountable. We've shown the ability to recover quick when we make mistakes. But the best thing about our program is growth. We have a lot of potential to get a whole lot better."
No. 23 Florida State (10-1), which returned to the Top 25 Poll this week after spending seven days in it during Week 2 of the season, will try to make it seven straight wins Saturday when they play in the Orange Bowl Classic against Manhattan.
The Jaspers (3-7) have to travel a wee bit farther to play this game than the Seminoles. Sunrise is just 450 miles from Tallahassee, while it's just over 1,200 miles to South Florida from the Empire State.
Manhattan is 0-3 all-time against the Seminoles and hasn't beaten a team from Florida in 22 years, since it took down Florida International University in 1994. But the Jaspers are coming into the game with more confidence than one might expect from a program with just three wins after taking home the "Battle of the Bronx" title last week against Fordham.
"The guys needed to feel good about themselves, and winning always helps," said head coach Steve Masiello, who is still searching for his first career win against an ACC program. "They're putting in a lot of work and a lot of time, and we do this to win games. So I'm happy for them right now. But we have a long way to go as a basketball team, and we know that."
Jaspers guard Zavier Turner, who leads the team with 19 points and 3.6 assists per game, will have be facing his most talented lineup -- offensively and defensively -- all season when the two teams square off for the first time since the Seminoles won 81-66 on Nov. 15, 2014.
Florida State, off to its best start since the 2008-09 season, is winning games by an average of 20.8 points while scoring 89 points a game. Part of the reason for that is a load of depth for the Seminoles, who have a staggering 13 players on the roster currently averaging double-digit minutes.
"I've said all along that the strength of this team is in the quality of our depth," Hamilton said. "We've played a lot of players and with a lot of different combinations on the floor. (I'm) hoping that we develop the type of chemistry with this team that it wouldn't matter who is on the floor."
Florida State is led by sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon, who is averaging 22.7 points. Right behind Bacon is five-star freshman recruit, forward Jonathan Isaac, who is averaging 14.4 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds. Isaac sat out two games over the last week with a hip flexor injury, but he returned with nine points and six boards in a huge win Sunday against then-No. 21 Florida, barely snapping a double-digit scoring streak he had going through the first eight games of his college career.
An added bonus is the recent play of sophomore guard P.J. Savoy Jr., who has only appeared in five games off the bench. But Savoy is already averaging 10.8 points and leads the team in 3-point percentage at .500 (17 of 34). Savoy, who missed the first six games with a turf toe injury, scored a career high -- and team high -- when he poured in 27 points against Southern Miss last week, drilling seven shots from beyond the arc in that win.
Florida State will, for the second time this year, wear its turquoise Nike N7 uniforms against Manhattan on Saturday to raise awareness for bringing sport to Native American and Aboriginal youth. Florida State makes a distinct departure from its traditional school colors to don the uniforms to stand for the importance of bringing sport and physical activity to Native American and Aboriginal youth.
"The Seminole Tribe of Florida approached us about this program and we are honored and excited to wear these unique uniforms," Hamilton said. "The color is significant as it is deeply symbolic of friendship and community in the Native American culture."
The Seminoles will have a quick turnaround after Saturday, returning home to play a rare midweek afternoon game against Samford on Monday.
Manhattan will return to New York for a Tuesday showdown at St. Francis (Brooklyn).