It has been a long climb, but the Florida State Seminoles are now above .500 in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings. Saturday’s 91-71 victory over Wake Forest in Winston Salem, North Carolina, was FSU’s fourth in a row and brought them to 6-5 in the league and 16-7 overall.
After an 0-3 start and a 2-5 record two weeks ago, the Seminoles seem to be coming together at the right time. Saturday’s game was a microcosm of their recent play featuring strong defense.
Florida State focused on Demon Deacons’ forward Devin Thomas, who was averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game coming into the game. Several players took their turns guarding Thomas, holding him to 11 points and allowing Wake Forest’s leading scorer to get off only eight shots throughout the game.
“It took all five guys to stop Thomas,” said FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton. “We executed our game plan well.”
Wake Forest shot 45 percent from the field, but during the winning streak, FSU has held opponents to an average of only 42 percent (97 for 223).
The Seminoles freshman tandem of Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley are now getting more help than earlier in the season. Xavier Rathan-Mayes has been fairly consistent throughout the year and Devin Bookert has been a good shooter, but Bookert is setting a defensive example for his teammates.
“People don’t notice how much ball pressure he puts on people,” Beasley told Seminoles.com. “He’s a great player and a great leader.”
On Saturday, Bookert contributed 9 points by converting three of seven three-point attempts. He also had five assists and a steal.
Beasley and Bacon had 16 and 11 points respectively, but Rathan-Mayes, Montay Brandon and Boris Bojanovsky all contributed double-figure performances.
“The difference in the game? Our depth and our seniors gave us great leadership,” said Hamilton.
Florida State has another road challenge coming on Thursday when they travel to Syracuse to face the Orangemen, who have won six of their last seven games. To win their fifth straight, the Seminoles will need to bring their best defensive performance to match the tough 2-3 zone played by Syracuse.