|6:30 ET, Mar 11, 2021
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 15 FSU banking on depth to deal Duke tourney death knell
Florida State had to quickly put behind the disappointment of letting a chance to win its second consecutive ACC regular season title slip away last week.
The No. 15-ranked Seminoles' 83-73 loss at Notre Dame last week coupled with a Virginia victory over Louisville dropped them to the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
Up first in the quarterfinals Thursday is the Seminoles' first meeting of the year with Duke. The 13-11 Blue Devils are fighting to enter the NCAA Tournament conversation.
The Seminoles (15-5) get a test just as FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said his team must learn to handle the big moments to win a championship.
"Part of the journey of our team is being in a position mentally and emotionally to handle this moment, the pressure to want to play well and win a championship," Hamilton said.
The teams did not play during the regular season. Their lone scheduled game Jan. 2 in Tallahassee was canceled due to COVID-19.
The Blue Devils likely need to become the first team to win five ACC tournament games in five days to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1994-95 season. They moved a step closer with an impressive 70-56 win Wednesday.
Freshman Mark Williams had a career game with 23 points and 19 rebounds. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Williams joined Marvin Bagley III and Shelden Williams as the only Duke players over the past 25 seasons with 20 or more points and 15 or more rebounds in an ACC tournament game.
"He was big time," said Duke All-ACC first-team forward Matthew Hurt, who also had 20 points against Louisville. "I'm so proud of him, our teammates are so proud of him, but he knows tomorrow that it's going to be a big game."
Duke's defense limited Louisville to only 30.6 percent shooting overall and 24.2 percent in the second half. The Blue Devils also held All-ACC first team guard Carlik Jones to 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
"Our half-court defense was excellent the entire night," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Freshman Scottie Barnes led FSU with 17 points against Notre Dame while RaiQuan Gray had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
But an aggressive Fighting Irish squad drew numerous trips to the free-throw line and made 28 of 34 attempts while the Seminoles made 15 of 20.
The Seminoles have been at their best this season when they can flex their depth. FSU often has several players scoring in double figures and finished the regular season with the top-ranked offense in the ACC.
Hamilton expects to see that team-first chemistry pay off starting this week.
"So now, all of a sudden, you start playing at this level with a unit or togetherness, teamwork, people sharing the ball and sharing playing time," Hamilton said. "It's almost contradictory to how these guys got to where they are now because they've been recruited because they were exceptional athletes."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 10, 2021