FSU rolls on as different players step up

BY foxsports • January 18, 2012

TALLAHASSEE -- One of the nation's most inconsistent teams may be showing signs that it is now a consistent winner.

Florida State stunned the college basketball world Saturday, not just by defeating No. 3 North Carolina but by dominating the Tar Heels by 33 points.

As impressive as that performance was, the real question soon became this: How would FSU follow it up Tuesday against Maryland? Would overconfidence come into play and would the Seminoles regress to their old habits? Or would Florida State show that it's a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference?

FSU's 84-70 win over Maryland spoke volumes -- perhaps as much as the win over the Tar Heels.

"For the Carolina game to really mean something, we definitely needed to win this game so that people weren't saying that it was a fluke," FSU forward Bernard James said.

FSU (12-6, 3-1 ACC) is flawed, but the Seminoles certainly showed that Saturday wasn't an anomaly. If anything, FSU is finding midseason solutions to its biggest problems.

Concern No. 1 this season has been turnovers, as the Seminoles average 18 per game, a total that's among the highest in the nation. Yes, FSU had 17 in the win over UNC. But the Seminoles also forced the Tar Heels to turn it over 22 times. Against Maryland, FSU had a season-low nine turnovers (the previous low was 15).

Concern No. 2 this season has been the lack of a go-to scorer. FSU has just one player, guard Michael Snaer (13.5 points per game), in the top 25 in the ACC in scoring. By comparison, Wake Forest has two of the top three scorers (C.J. Harris and Travis McKie), and North Carolina has three in the top 10 (Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller).

FSU has been forced to go with a more balanced approach. In its first four ACC games, for example, the Seminoles have been led in scoring by four different players: Ian Miller, Deividas Dulkys, Snaer and James.

And Tuesday's win may have illustrated FSU's balance. With Maryland blanketing Dulkys just days after he dropped 32 points on UNC, FSU found Snaer (19 points) and Miller (18 points) on the perimeter while also pushing the ball inside to James (17 points) and Okaro White (13 points).

"They're making shots, playing with confidence, got to the foul line and made 20 out of 23 free throws," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "That's pretty impressive.  . . . They're just executing at a high level."

James has also been more aggressive the past three games. He had 18 points against Virginia Tech, eight points and nine rebounds vs. UNC, and added 17 points against Maryland, providing early dunks and timely hook shots.

"He looked like a man among boys," Turgeon said. "I thought he made a lot of tough shots."

The Seminoles are shooting at a higher percentage and have enjoyed back-to-back 80-plus point games in the ACC. FSU has been making the tough shots ever since the loss to Clemson on Jan. 7, which players say was a wake-up call.

"Everybody hates that, but I think that just brought us back down," Miller said. "We came off the Sweet 16, and we had a great year last year. I think we were still living on that. Once we got ourselves back down and (started) grinding, we got back to playing junkyard basketball."

Now FSU has a remarkable opportunity Saturday: a chance to notch upsets of two top-five teams in a span of just eight days. The Seminoles will play at No. 4 Duke (15-2, 3-0), a matchup that will showcase the top two teams in the ACC standings.

FSU stunned Duke last season in Tallahassee, taking a 66-61 win. Now the Seminoles have a chance to defeat North Carolina and Duke in the same season for the first time since 2001-02; quite a thought considering where this team was just a few weeks ago.

"It's another opportunity, and we're going to seize the moment," Miller said. "Every game is a big game because it's the next game, and we want to get another win."


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