There is always built-in motivation when the University of Miami and Florida State play basketball – or any sport, for that matter. But expect the visiting Seminoles to be particularly hungry on Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
After going 5-1 against ranked teams and leaping to No. 6 in the AP poll, FSU dropped nine spots to No. 15 following back-to-back losses against unranked Georgia Tech and Syracuse by a total of 32 points.
“We were hunting during that 5-1 stretch, but we had some success and became the hunted, and we have not done a very good job of adjusting to that position,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who spent 10 years at Miami from 1999-2000.
“When we went 5-1 against ranked teams, the media dubbed it `The Gauntlet,’ but I reminded them in every press conference that in the ACC, the non-ranked teams can beat anyone in America. It’s a dogfight.”
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Just ask North Carolina, which came into the Watsco Center last Saturday ranked No. 9 and got outplayed on both ends of the floor by the unranked Hurricanes.
Miami beat the Tar Heels 77-62, with 30 points from freshman Bruce Brown, leading UNC coach Roy Williams to say: “That kid just kicked our rear ends. He was high motor from the first moment of the game to the end. We didn’t have enough guys with the high motor to compete with him. I was very disappointed with how we played, but give Miami credit. They were much more aggressive on offense, on defense, and totally dominated the game.”
The Hurricanes (14-6, 4-4 ACC) would like to build on that win, but realize they are facing a very tall, talented FSU team. The Noles (18-4, 6-3 ACC) have two seven-footers on their roster – 7-1 Michael Ojo and 7-4 Christ Koumadje. They also boast Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Dwayne Bacon, and Jonathan Isaac.
UM coach Jim Larranaga said this is the best FSU team he has seen since he joined the league six years ago. He is most impressed with how the Seminoles pressure the ball in the passing lanes.
“They’re so long and athletic and so tall around the rim, they can protect the rim with their big guys and their perimeter guys can get out and pressure you,” he said. “And they have such a deep bench, one guy gets tired, couple of guys can come in and rest them. They’ve been very good for five years, but this is their most talented, challenging team to play against.”
UM men vs. No. 15 Florida State
When/where: 8 p.m.; Watsco Center, UM campus.
TV/radio: ACC Network, WQAM-560 AM.
Records: UM (14-6, 4-4 ACC), FSU (18-4, 6-3 ACC).
Scouting report: The Canes are 7-4 against the Seminoles under coach Jim Larrañaga and have won three in a row. When they played last season, UM was ranked No. 12 and beat FSU 67-65. Miami is 10-1 at home this season and has won 23 of 24 at home. FSU was scoring 80 points per game when it went 5-1 against ranked teams but is coming off back-to-back losses to unranked teams.