The Miami Hurricanes, who are stumbling toward the finish line of their season with eight losses in their past 10 games, will visit the eighth-ranked Florida State Seminoles in an ACC game on Saturday afternoon.
FSU (19-3, 9-2) has won 12 of its past 13 games, including an 83-79 overtime win at Miami on Jan. 18. The Seminoles trailed Miami by nine points with five minutes remaining before rallying.
“I hated to put that stress on Coach,” FSU guard M.J. Walker said of Leonard Hamilton. “But this is the ACC. I love it!”
Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said his team “did everything to win that game … except win.”
The circumstances for Saturday’s game will be different, however.
For starters, the Hurricanes (11-11, 3-9) will be on the road, where they have dropped five of their six ACC games.
FSU is 11-0 at home in Tallahassee this season.
In addition to those harsh numbers for Miami, the Hurricanes are without arguably their top two players in point man Chris Lykes (groin injury) and shooting guard Kam McGusty (back spasms).
Lykes, who has missed four straight games, leads Miami in scoring (15.7) and is the Hurricanes’ primary ball-handler. McGusty is Miami’s third-leading scorer (13.9).
Those absences have conspired against Miami senior guard Dejan Vasiljevic, who is an outstanding spot-up shooter under normal circumstances. But, without Lykes to set him up, Vasiljevic has struggled, which was certainly the case in Wednesday’s 83-72 home loss to the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
In that game, Vasiljevic made just 7 of 22 shots, including 3 for 14 on three-pointers.
For the season, Vasiljevic is shooting 89.8 percent on free throws and 37.3 on three-pointers while ranking second on Miami in scoring average (14.4).
Besides Lykes, McGusty and Vasiljevic, nobody else on the Hurricanes averages in double figures. However, with the injuries to Lykes and McGusty, freshmen Harlond Beverly, Isaiah Wong and Anthony Walker have shown their potential. Beverly scored a career-high 20 points against the Wolfpack, Wong added 12 points and seven rebounds, and Walker chipped in with six points and seven rebounds.
They are the three most athletic players among Miami’s healthy bodies. Beverly and Wong are best when driving to the basket, and Walker uses his 6-foot-9 frame and leaping ability to crash the boards.
Florida State, meanwhile, has no shortage of athleticism, which long has been a staple of Hamilton’s teams. The Seminoles feature balanced scoring and are led by 6-6 sophomore guard Devin Vassell, who is averaging a team-high 13.5 points. He also leads the team in rebounds (5.3).
Senior point guard Trent Forrest is second on the team in scoring (11.4) and leads FSU in assists (4.2) and steals (1.8).
Walker, a 6-5 junior, is the Seminoles’ only other double-figure scorer (10.6).
The Seminoles are much deeper than Miami and routinely get contributions from 10 players, which is what happened in their most recent game, a 65-59 win over North Carolina on Monday.
“I think this may be the best club Leonard has had since I’ve been back in the ACC,” said Roy Williams, who is in his 17th season coaching the Tar Heels. “They are athletic and hard to guard, and they do a great job defensively.”
–Field Level Media