It hasn't quite happened for an entire game just yet, but at times you can see a glimmer of it.
Florida State's execution on the defensive end of the floor is finally beginning to somewhat resemble the stifling units that have made Leonard Hamilton's teams a year in, year out contender in the ACC.
|Florida State vs. Maryland|
When: 8:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3
Records: FSU 9-5, 1-0 ACC
Maryland 13-1, 1-0 ACC
Where: Comcast Center, College Park, Md.
Series: Maryland leads 29-11
With a roster that includes seven newcomers, FSU has struggled defensively at times this season. Opponents are averaging 67.6 points per game against FSU, and shooting an average of .405 from the floor.
Still after a 71-66 win over the Clemson to open up ACC-play, Hamilton is enthused by what he saw from his team on defense.
"I think defensively we're getting better with our effort and our rotations," Hamilton said. "We're fouling too much right now. I think that'll improve as we gain a little bit more game experience."
Clemson shot just 38.9 percent from the floor against FSU, had five shots block and turned the ball over 13 times. Yet the Tigers were able to hang around as FSU had turnover issues of it own, and went to the line 30 times (compared to just 17 times for the Seminoles).
In a loss to Auburn earlier in the week FSU faced a similar disparity from the free-throw line. Auburn shot 41 free-throws, while the Seminoles took just 15. Hamilton said he and the other coaches will look into the free-throw disparity, but he is more pleased with the energy FSU is showing on the defensive end of the floor.
"I thought our intensity was up," Hamilton said. "We were much more aggressive than we have been and played with a lot more intensity. One of the things was I thought we had great camaraderie and chemistry on the floor. We were talking and communicating and covering each other's back. That's what we have to do from a defensive standpoint. Everybody was alert."
As Clemson shot its way back into the game on Saturday it was FSU's defense late in the game that sealed the road-ACC win. The Tigers had to use multiple timeouts trying to inbounds the ball, trailing by just three with under 20 seconds left in the game. Ultimately Okaro White stole the ball and sealed the win at the charity stripe for FSU.
It was the most complete effort FSU had put forth on the defensive end this season. Freshman guard Devon Bookert admitted that the younger guys are finally starting to come around on the defensive end after a slow start.
"I feel like all the freshman we're starting to pick up all the principles and where we're supposed to be, and how we're supposed to swarm to help, and always have our teammates back and just be five people to the ball," said Bookert. "Especially on the weak side. Because before on the weak side we felt like it was a time to rest, but now we know as the weak side you're the anchor to the defense. You have to tell everybody where we're going and all of that stuff like that."
Hamilton will need his youngsters to have the same focus and intensity as they hit the road again on Wednesday to face the Maryland Terrapins (13-1, 1-0 ACC) at 8 p.m. ET. Because of a slow 9-5 (1-0 ACC) start, Hamilton knows his team likely has to find a way to win double digit games in the ACC if its going to have a chance at making a fifth-straight NCAA Tournament.
"We don't have anymore coupons to use," Hamilton said. "We don't have any more mistakes we can make. We need to get as many wins as we possibly can. Steal them, take them, fight for them, whatever we have to do. We need to be prepared to be sound enough and together enough that we give ourselves a chance to win. Hopefully this will be another learning experience and stepping stone for our players in the right direction."
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