A year ago Florida State was on its way to its first Atlantic Coast Conference title in a season where the Seminoles beat perennial powers North Carolina and Duke each twice.
But that was then and six players from that team are gone and it appears to be Miami's turn to keep the ACC title in Florida.
This year coach Leonard Hamilton's revamped, young team is hoping to squeeze out a winning season. Hamilton made some lineup changes Wednesday looking for a late-season rebound in a team that has sputtered along most of the year.
"If we are going to finish strong we are going to need a contribution from a lot of players," Hamilton said after Wednesday's 74-68 loss to third-ranked Miami.
He started three freshmen along with senior Michael Snaer and junior Okaro White and the Seminoles responded with a strong performance, albeit not good enough to derail Miami. The Hurricanes (20-3, 11-0 ACC) overcame an early 11-point deficit and deflected a couple of second half runs by Florida State to remain perfect in the ACC and sweep their series with the Seminoles.
"Those older guys on the other team from Miami they kept wearing us down," White said about Miami's veteran team.
Hamilton, a veteran of four decades in the coaching arena, has been frustrated by his club's failure to blend together during the first 24 games of the season. But Hamilton's lineup changes seemed to have paid off despite the loss.
Florida State (13-11, 5-6) entered the game having already lost this season by 20 or more points on four occasions, including twice by 25. The defending ACC champions were embarrassed 71-46 at Wake Forest last Saturday. And three of Florida State's league wins have come on last-second shots by Snaer.
He's chosen to put the challenge for a strong finish on several first-year players.
Hamilton went with 7-foot Michael Ojo, wing Aaron Thomas and Devon Bookert at point guard against Miami. Bookert continued his strong second half of the season with a dozen points and played a season high 28 minutes.
"I thought they were very sharp. We had four turnovers in our first six possessions and those turnovers led to easy baskets for them," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "They stole the ball from us and laid it in."
Seemingly long out of any NCAA postseason consideration short of winning next month's ACC tournament, Florida State finds itself scrambling to avoid the possibility its first losing season in eight years and salvage an invite to the NIT.
"We don't have the luxury of counting victories at this point," Hamilton said. "We have to play well against Boston College (on Saturday)."
"We'd love to go undefeated. That would be just awesome the rest of the way," Hamilton said. "But we can't go undefeated unless we take care of business on Saturday."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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