The Florida State bandwagon is becoming lighter today. After Saturday’s demoralizing 82-72 loss to an average Syracuse team, some within Seminole Nation will look toward Wednesday’s National Signing Day for football.
It is certainly not every year that No. 6 Florida State has an 18-4 record and is a lock for the NCAA Tournament. That information stays in the background as the newest basketball supporters are certain to become the first to jump ship.
Good teams lose two games in a row, just as the Seminoles have done. It is the way they have gone down, set up by disastrous first halves, which will prompt the exodus.
Those that look for the first opportunity to criticize Coach Leonard Hamilton will take Saturday’s result as the go-ahead to resume the assault. They will talk about FSU falling behind by 26 and 18 points by halftime in their past two games as proof Hamilton cannot lead his team through adversity.
While it is true a coach’s job is to have his team ready to play, his players have to score and defend, especially in the first half. The Seminoles simply did not have an answer to the 2-3 zone employed by the Orange.
The best way to bust a zone is to make some shots, which is what FSU finally starting doing in the second half. Helped by some sharp three-point shooting, they trimmed 44-26 deficit to three points with about 13 minutes remaining.
Despite some chances to get even or pull ahead, they were never able to get the key stop or make the key shot. In the latter stages of the game, some ill-advised shots went up from multiple Seminole players.
“We cut the lead to two several times, but could not get over the hump,” said Hamilton.
Star forward Jonathan Isaac and guard Dwayne Bacon struggled in the first half, but caught fire in the second half. Still, their twin 19-point performances were not enough.
In the last three minutes and the game very much in doubt, the defense could not prevent Orange guard John Gillon, who scored 21 points, from penetrating into the lane. The result was either free throws (11 out of 12) or a layup.
Florida State’s defense, which enticed even more onto the bandwagon, has the reputation for wearing opponents down. Syracuse seemed ripe for a collapse as Coach Jim Boeheim used only seven players in the game.
Tyler Lydon and Andrew White III played all 40 minutes. The five players who were on the floor for 33 minutes or more still had enough in the tank to pull out the win.
For the second straight game, FSU seemed to lose their poise at certain points of the game. Playing with a lead can certainly help in that regard.
Hamilton is at the point where his team needs coaching. There are the Xs and Os of basketball, as well as the mental aspect. His team needs both.
If they are to break their two-game losing streak on Wednesday, they will have to beat a Miami Hurricanes team in Coral Gables that throttled No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday. Will this year’s basketball players generate as much excitement as next year’s football players on Wednesday?
Leonard Hamilton and the true believers certainly hope so.