Longtime rivals Miami and Florida State face each other on Tuesday night in Tallahassee, Fla., as each team reaches the midway point of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
Each team is trending a bit in opposite directions.
The 20th-ranked Hurricanes (15-4, 6-3 ACC) fell three spots in the rankings this week following a frustrating 68-66 loss at Duke on Saturday.
Following a 13-1 start that had Miami on the verge of cracking the Top 10, the Hurricanes have dropped three of their past five since the calendar year began.
Florida State (7-13, 5-4), which swept Miami last year with a pair of one-point wins, has gradually improved following a dismal start.
After a 1-9 start, the Seminoles have won six of their past 10.
Florida State won back-to-back games for only the second time this season Saturday when it scored a 71-64 road win at Pittsburgh, led by Darin Green Jr.’s 24 points. Caleb Mills and Matthew Cleveland each added 11 points.
“We’ve made tremendous improvement since the beginning of the year,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. “This is the first time I haven’t had a third- or fourth-year player on this team. We’re not the team we intended to have. … We’re a team that’s evolving and we haven’t reached close to our potential. Darin gave us a tremendous lift.”
Green Jr.’s emergence as the Seminoles’ top scorer (14.6 points per game) has been huge for the team’s progress. Florida State looked more like its traditional self against Pitt with its bench players making an impact led by Chandler Jackson’s eight points and two steals.
“The guys who came off the bench were 6-for-7 (shooting),” Hamilton said. “We have not been getting that type of contribution from a bench which allows us to give our starters rest and help sustain our effort.”
While FSU has seemed more in character of late, Miami coach Jim Larranaga said the opposite about his team’s performance down the stretch against Duke.
The Hurricanes held the Blue Devils without a field goal for the final five minutes yet could not take advantage, shooting 30.3 percent (10 for 33) in the second half as Duke hung on despite scoring only four points on free throws over the final five minutes.
“I thought we got out of character in the second half,” Larranaga said. “We took way too many difficult shots. No assists, everything off the bounce. I think that led to really good defense by Duke’s team.”
Jordan Miller finished with 19 points and Nijel Pack added 18, but Isaiah Wong was held to just seven points. The Canes also seemed to struggle with Duke’s size inside as Norchad Omier — despite collecting 14 rebounds — struggled from the field, going 3 for 9. Omier is a 60.1 percent shooter for the season.
“So was it their size or was it the Duke name that bothered us?” Larranaga speculated. “Was it the crowd? Was it the energy level that was in the gym? (Because) sometimes your adrenaline is what creates the problem for you (because) you can’t calm down and just make a shot.”
–Field Level Media