Florida State opened the season with a rarity — a conference game — and lost 63-61 at Pitt.
The Seminoles have waited a long time for payback.
No. 8 Florida State (21-4, 11-2 ACC) shrugged off that opening loss and responded by winning 17 of its next 18 games. The Seminoles are coming off an 80-77 win over Syracuse on Saturday as they head into Tuesday’s home against Pitt (15-11, 6-9) in Tallahassee.
Florida State is 13-0 at Donald L. Tucker Center.
The Panthers have lost three of their past four games, including a 67-57 decision at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Pitt sits 12th in the ACC standings out of 15 teams.
“I’m frustrated for our guys; I hate it for them,” coach Jeff Capel said after Saturday’s loss.
“We were trying to push buttons and figure out a way to change it and obviously what we did (Saturday) didn’t work. So, we have to figure out some other things. We have some more road games, one coming up on Tuesday so we have to try and figure different things out. We have to keep playing, we have to be smarter, we have to finish.”
Pitt fell behind 32-23 at halftime and never recovered. The Panthers shot just 35 percent from the floor (21 of 60) en route to losing their fifth straight road game. They have, however, already exceeded last season’s win total (14) and are 7-3 after a loss this season.
Florida State is coming off a roller-coaster week in which it suffered a narrow 70-65 loss at No. 7 Duke, then rebounded with a hard-fought, comeback win against Syracuse. The team’s leading scorer, guard Devin Vassell, played against Duke but was absent from the lineup against Syracuse.
Coach Leonard Hamilton refused to give a reason after the game while Vassell didn’t play, and he did not shed light about whether Vassell would be available Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if Vassell was benched for disciplinary reasons or was injured.
“I think you guys have been around me long enough to know that I don’t talk about injuries if a kid doesn’t play,” Hamilton said of Vassell, who was seen warming up Saturday. “I don’t want to acknowledge it one way or another and that’s it.”
Vassell, a sophomore projected as a potential first-round pick in the 2020 draft, is averaging 13.4 points per game, followed by Trent Forrest (11.6) and M.J. Walker (10.7). The 6-foot-7 Vassell is also the team’s leading rebounder at 5.4 boards per game.
Pitt also has three players averaging double figures, led by 12.5 points per game from guards Trey McGowens and Justin Champagnie, who also paces the team on the glass with an average of 7.3 rebounds per game. Xavier Johnson is averaging 11.8 points.
The first meeting, back on Nov. 6, was ugly. The game included 43 fouls — 27 from Florida State — and 27 turnovers. Pitt won despite shooting 31.4 percent (16 of 51).
–Field Level Media