No. 11 Florida State seeks to continue mastery of Miami

NCAA Men's Basketball

The No. 11 Florida State Seminoles are one of the deeper teams in the nation, and the Miami Hurricanes are the opposite of that, finishing their most recent game with just five healthy scholarship players.

That, in the nutshell, is the matchup for Wednesday night as the Seminoles visit Miami for an Atlantic Coast Conference game.

With four games left on its regular-season schedule, FSU (13-3, 9-2) leads the ACC standings and is closing in on the top seed in the conference tournament. FSU is 8-1 in its past nine games, including three straight wins.

Miami (7-13, 3-12) is on the other end of the spectrum. The Hurricanes have the second-fewest wins in the ACC and are coming off an 87-60 blowout loss to visiting Georgia Tech. Miami trailed that game by 30 points … at halftime.

Depth — or lack thereof — is a major factor for both teams.

In FSU’s most recent game, a 79-72 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, Seminoles leading scorer M.J. Walker was held without a point, missing all five of his shots.

No problem. FSU still had four players score in double figures, including projected 2021 NBA Draft lottery pick Scottie Barnes, who comes in off the bench, which explains perfectly how deep the Seminoles are this season.

Nine Seminoles players average at least 13 minutes per game.

“They come at you in waves,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “They wear you down with big, athletic guys they keep sending in. They constantly pressure the basketball. They take passes away, and they are very physical.”

FSU had 33 bench points against Pitt, and that is all part of the plan for Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton.

“We continue to win by committee,” Hamilton said. “That represents who we are as a team.”

One possible hole in FSU’s resume this season is a lack of extensive road success. The Seminoles are 11-1 at home but just 2-2 on the road.

Walker leads FSU in scoring (13.1). RaiQuan Gray tops the Seminoles in rebounds (6.6) and steals (1.5), while ranking second in scoring (11.7). Barnes is first in assists (4.2) while ranking third in scoring (10.3). And 7-foot-1 Balsa Koprivica averages 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and a team-high 1.1 blocks per game.

FSU beat Miami in their most recent matchup, 81-59, last month. Overall, FSU has beaten Miami six straight times, including twice in overtime.

The last time Miami beat FSU was on Jan. 7, 2018.

This season, however, has been a mess for the Hurricanes due mostly to injuries as Rodney Miller, Sam Waardenburg — both starters last season — are out for the season. Their two freshmen are gone, too, as Earl Timberlake is injured and out for the season, and Matt Cross left the team.

Chris Lykes, Miami’s leading scorer last season, hasn’t played since the second game of the season. And Isaiah Wong, Miami’s leading scorer this season (16.7), missed the second half of the Georgia Tech game due to an ankle injury. It is uncertain if he’ll face the Seminoles.

Finally, point guard Harlond Beverly, who missed his first game of the season against Georgia Tech, is out indefinitely. That leaves Miami with just seven players, including two walk-ons who combine to average 0.6 points per game.

“I know it’s tough because we don’t have a lot of guys, and Florida State has hundreds,” Miami center Deng Gak said in a slight exaggeration. “But we’re going to keep competing.”

–Field Level Media

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