Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said he has an extra boost of energy after receiving a two-year contract extension earlier in the week even though the Seminoles are in the midst of their longest losing streak in nine years.
“Anytime your administration shows confidence you are pleased,” Hamilton said. “We’ve taken a step back and had some challenges that we didn’t expect to happen but I know we can get this done.”
The Seminoles (16-12, 6-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) are on a five-game losing streak heading into Saturday’s game against No. 23 Notre Dame. So Hamilton’s immediate challenge is reviving his slumping team for the final two games of the regular season.
Athletic director Stan Wilcox said that he wanted to announce the extension this week to put an end to questions about Hamilton’s future would end. Wilcox also noted other conference programs that have taken a dip when a new coach has been hired.
However, Florida State is likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season and has gone 37-41 in conference play since winning the ACC Tournament in 2012.
Wilcox also noted that the extension was also based on Hamilton’s past two recruiting classes, especially if Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon do not jump to the NBA this year. The freshmen are the top scorers and rebounders this season while the incoming group is ranked in the top 10 by most recruiting services.
Bacon and Beasley averaged 32.5 points in the first 11 conference games as Florida State was 6-5 but has averaged 22.6 in the past five.
Beasley, a 6-foot-5 guard, has struggled the most, averaging just 9.8 points and shooting just 28.8 percent from the field during the five-game losing streak. The 6-7 Bacon is averaging 12.8 points and is shooting 37.9 percent from the field.
“Reality is setting in that this is the ACC. They are having to grow up without the protection of veteran players and have had a learning curve,” Hamilton said.
Another problem has been defense.
During the losing streak, teams are averaging 11 offensive rebounds off the Seminoles and making 43 percent of 3-pointers. Notre Dame comes into the game third in the ACC in 3-point percentage (37.3 percent).
“Nobody has accused us of being a great defensive team. Notre Dame gives us the same challenges as Duke because they have four guys that can shoot 3s,” Hamilton said.
A win in one of the final two games would also give Florida State a chance at not playing on the first day of the conference tournament. But getting a win against the Irish will not be easy.
The Seminoles are 1-5 against ranked teams this season with three of the losses coming by 15 points or more, including Thursday’s 80-65 loss at No. 15 Duke. Notre Dame (19-8, 10-5 ACC), which is playing its third straight road game, is making only its second trip to Tallahassee after a 76-72 loss on Jan. 21, 2014.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.