Seminoles put on a magical show against ranked foes
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Even as the FSU men’s basketball team is running through a gauntlet of a schedule against ranked opponents in remarkable fashion, there is plenty more about the Seminoles that make them impressive.
Just consider: They’ve beaten a ranked opponent for the sixth time this season, following a 73-68 victory on Saturday against 11th-ranked Louisville. That tied the school record for the Seminoles who last beat as many ranked teams during the 2012 season.
Add to that the individual performers and it makes what FSU is doing even more magical. As of the Louisville win, Dwayne Bacon had 30 consecutive games in which he’s hit double figures. He and freshman sensation Jonathon Isaac each scored 16 against the Cardinals.
Speaking of Isaac, his 16 points and team-leading 10 rebounds give him three consecutive games in which he’s pulled off the double-double feat.
Then, there are the likes of Michael Ojo and Terance Mann and PJ Savoy who have come off the bench so many times this season to make game-changing plays. Let’s not forget Mr. Everything Dwayne Bacon.
With every win, cynics keep looking for an explanation. That’s easy, said Savoy.
“We don’t give up,” he said. “We are tough. We’ll fight to the end horn.
“It’s just everybody having the same mindset. It might not be my night tonight, but I cheer my teammates on. We all have each other’s backs.”
Coach Leonard Hamilton has seen that brotherhood among his players and often during postgame meetings with the media has offered it as a reason for their success.
Especially during the run against ranked teams that get more treacherous during the next week and a half – all on the road. They played at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night, then go to Syracuse and Miami before coming back home to play Clemson at the Civic Center.
Even coming home will be a test for the Seminoles. They will be looking for their 17th consecutive home win and will need the crowd to be the sixth man more than ever.
Anything like what was heard in the first half against Louisville will do. The house arguably quickly took the Cardinals out of the game, giving FSU the adrenaline to roll off the first 14 points of the game without a counter from Louisville.
At this point, after saying that his team is still growing just three games ago, Hamilton is now convinced he has a special bunch.
“They communicate with each other very well,” he said. “They hold each other accountable. They like each other and there is really no drama with them. We believe in each other.”
In particular, Hamilton has more confidence in Isaac than most coaches would in a freshman.
“Jonathan has the innate ability to play the game the right way,” Hamilton said. “He never forces a shot. He is on the bench totally involved with every possession. He is on the bench communicating with the guys on the floor. He is a special kind of guy. When the game is on the line he wants to step up and make the play.”
There hasn’t been a coach whose team came to town that hasn’t taken notice in disbelief of the kind of plays that Isaac has pulled off. He’s shown the experience and composure of a veteran night after night.
“He is a great player,” said Notre Dame’s head coach Mike Brey. “I mean; the way he knocks down jump-shots with game pressure on him I’ve got the utmost respect for him.”
The reason for Isaac’s success is because he works just as hard in practice as any of his more experienced teammates, said Bacon. But even with the individual performances, there is no star on the team, Hamilton said.
That, said Bacon, and a willingness to fight through even the toughest practice is making all the difference.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to prepare,” Bacon said. “We are trying to be the best and we’re preparing like the best. We believed in ourselves from the jump.”