Florida St.-Wake Forest Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- With another stunning victory, surging Florida State has climbed its way back into the AP poll and into a first-place tie atop the ACC.
While the Seminoles have had plenty to celebrate of late, they know there's still a lot left to achieve.
No. 23 Florida State tries for a fifth consecutive win in conference play for the first time in 19 seasons when it visits Wake Forest on Wednesday night.
Since falling 79-59 at Clemson in their league opener, the Seminoles (13-6, 4-1) have outscored opponents by an average of 13.5 points during a four-game winning streak. While its run began with a 63-59 win at Virginia Tech and includes an 84-70 victory over Maryland, Florida State finds itself in the national spotlight thanks to knocking off two of the top teams in the country.
The Seminoles, who surprisingly blew out then-No. 3 North Carolina 90-57 on Jan. 14, are coming off Saturday's thrilling 76-73 win at then-No. 4 Duke.
Averaging a team-best 13.5 points, Michael Snaer scored 14 - including the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to end the Blue Devils' 45-game home winning streak.
"The first thing (coach Leonard Hamilton) said after Duke was, 'Nobody has won the ACC Championship with four wins,'" senior Bernard James told the school's official site. "So we know we've got to keep playing and winning. I think if anything it's made us more hungry to keep it going. I think we are in a good place right now as far as the spirit of our team and how we're playing together.
"We are going to do whatever it takes to keep that same focus that we have now."
Florida State, which made 7 of 14 from 3-point range versus the Blue Devils, is shooting 43.3 percent from beyond the arc during its winning streak - significantly higher than its 32.7 season mark.
"We needed to start playing better and we have," said senior Deividas Dulkys. "Now we've got to keep it up."
The Seminoles will look to do just that versus the Demon Deacons (11-8, 2-3), against whom they've posted three consecutive wins by an average of 15.3 points - including an 84-66 road win Feb. 19.
Despite its recent success in the series, Florida State isn't taking this matchup for granted.
"They can score points at all four positions ... They present some challenges for our defense," Hamilton said.
Following a season-worst three consecutive defeats, Wake Forest prevailed 71-56 at Boston College on Saturday. The Demon Deacons' dynamic duo of forward Travis McKie and guard C.J. Harris, averaging a combined 34.5 points, totaled 35 against the Eagles.
In its only matchup versus a ranked foe this season, Wake Forest lost 91-73 at then-No. 4 Duke on Thursday. The Demon Deacons have been outscored by 21.5 points in dropping four straight versus ranked teams.
Things won't get any easier versus Florida State, which is seeking a fifth consecutive ACC victory for the first time since taking six in a row Jan. 31-Feb. 20, 1993. That team reached the NCAA tournament regional final, its deepest run since reaching the 1972 title game.
The Seminoles, who had previously been ranked as high as No. 22 the week of Nov. 21 before falling out, are hoping to stick around a little bit longer this time around.
"We've been here before and didn't handle it correctly," Hamilton said. "I'm more concerned about where we are in March."
Updated January 24, 2012