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Seminoles' deeper, stronger bench could play large role vs. No. 7 Duke

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Freshman guard Trent Forrest attacks the basket in Florida State's 93-78 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Freshman guard Trent Forrest attacks the basket in Florida State's 93-78 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday. (Gene Williams/Warchant)

One year ago, injuries and youth created challenges when it came to fielding a bench that could compete for the Florida State men's basketball team.

Now, as the No. 9 Seminoles (15-1, 3-0 ACC) prepare to take on No. 7 Duke (14-2, 2-1) tonight at 8 p.m. at the Tucker Center, that second unit actually is a team strength. That was readily apparent during FSU's 93-78 win over No. 21 Virginia Tech on Saturday.

The reserves scored 35 points, dwarfing the Hokies' second unit, which only scored eight.

"I think its very important if we're going to sustain the level of energy that we have to play with in order to be competitive in the ACC," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said of the bench. "It's important that we have guys who are able to get those guys some rest.

"In the past couple of years, we're playing guys 35, 36 minutes and that's tremendously challenging. You're always trying to find a spot to get a breather."

Also See: Hoops Game Day -- Starters, stats, TV info for tonight's game

Tonight's game against Duke is the third in FSU's daunting six-game stretch against ranked opponents. The Seminoles are 6-1 in games against teams ranked in the top 50 of the NCAA's Rating Percentage Index or RPI. The metric -- often used in determining which teams have played a tough schedule -- proves useful when assessing a team's resume for the NCAA Tournament.

How FSU performs in those games will determine if this is the year the Seminoles return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. FSU's bench has averaged 21.8 points against top-50 RPI teams.

"Our bench has been like that all year. They came in and gave us a boost just like they did all year," sophomore swingman Dwayne Bacon said after the win against the Hokies. "That's something we definitely need for the rest of the year. That's something they've been great at doing.

"They don't get into themselves when they come in. They come out and play team defense, they come out and move the ball and they come out and score for us."

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