No. 22 Florida State readies for No. 16 Louisville
The last time No. 22 Florida State hosted a Top 25 matchup in its house, it ended in heartbreak for the Seminoles.
Back on Jan. 12, then-No. 1 Duke rolled into town to take on then-No. 13 Florida State, which gave the Blue Devils all they could handle for 39 minutes and 51 seconds as the Seminoles held a 78-77 lead in the final moments.
But in the last three seconds, the spirits of a sold-out crowd at the Donald L. Tucker Center were crushed when Duke point guard Cam Reddish got free and drilled a wide-open 3-pointer to beat the buzzer, sinking the Seminoles 80-78.
On Saturday, Florida State (17-5 overall, 5-4 ACC) gets a chance at redemption when No. 16 Louisville (17-6, 8-2) comes to town for the Seminoles' third Top 25 home matchup this season.
Florida State spiraled a bit after that Duke loss, dropping its next two games at unranked Pitt and Boston College, but the Seminoles have since righted the ship and won four straight contests coming into Saturday. The latest was an 80-62 victory Tuesday at Syracuse.
"Our inconsistency has kind of been our biggest obstacle," Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "But I do feel that we made a step in the right direction (against Syracuse), on the road against a good basketball team in a place that is very challenging to win. I thought our guys grew up a little bit."
While the Seminoles have been slowly regaining the consistency that helped them race out to a 12-1 record before ACC play began, Louisville has had no such trouble staying the course this season.
The Cardinals are sitting comfortably at No. 4 in the ACC standings -- a half-game back of Virginia, Duke and North Carolina -- and they come into Saturday's meeting with Florida State winners of seven of their last eight games. The only blemish during that run was a 79-69 loss to No. 9 North Carolina last week, but the Cardinals followed that up with a 72-64 victory Monday against No. 11 Virginia Tech.
"I think our team's gained a little bit of belief in themselves," Louisville head coach Chris Mack told the Associated Press following the win against the Hokies. "I told our team from the very beginning that I think we're an (NCAA) tournament team. If we would just take care of the ball a little bit better, rebound a little bit better, know what we're doing defensively a little bit better and take a little more pride in that area, then we can compete with anybody.
"We felt like we didn't play at our best against North Carolina. And I think some guys in that locker room -- every guy in that locker room -- was convinced they weren't going to feel that way, at least because of our effort."
Florida State is likely still smarting about last year's first game against Louisville, which saw the Cardinals rally from 17 points down to win -- and in the process snap a 28-game home winning streak by the Seminoles. Louisville has won four of its last six matchups against Florida State, including two out of three last year.
The Cardinals have also dominated the all-time series with the Seminoles 34-11.
Six Florida State players are averaging over seven points a game, led by forward Mfiondu Kabengele (13.2 points per game) -- and Kabengele doesn't even start for the Seminoles.
The Cardinals are equally balanced and deep on offense with six players averaging eight points or more. Sophomore Jordan Nwora leads the Cardinals in scoring (17.8) and rebounding (7.7).
After their meeting with Florida State, the Cardinals return home and host a whopper of a showdown Tuesday when No. 2 Duke comes to town. Florida State will remain home against Wake Forest on Wednesday.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 8, 2019