Florida State is looking to break a two-game ACC losing streak and will get its chance Saturday night against Virginia Tech. The Hokies come into Tallahassee riding high after a victory at Miami.
Saturday's matchup will wrap up a week that has seen Seth Greenberg's club playing three ranked ACC opponents on the road.
"Everybody is hungry for a victory," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "They have gotten off to a good start like most of the teams in the ACC and they are playing good basketball. We have all had our ups and downs but they are on a hot streak right now."
While the Hokies (13-2, 1-1 ACC) are hot coming off a victory over the Hurricanes, the Seminoles (13-4, 1-2 ACC) are struggling coming off consecutive losses. In each of the two recent setbacks, a number of flaws on both ends of the court have been exposed.
"We have some work to do," sophomore guard Luke Loucks said. "These last two games have brought a lot of things to attention, but the good news is that they are all correctable."
"We know the challenges we face," sophomore guard Deividas Dulkys added. "We just have to step it up."
Florida State's motion offense struggled against both Maryland and North Carolina State. The main culprit has been extended stretches without any offense, including a stretch of 6:33 against the Wolfpack.
"It is the whole offense in general," Loucks said. "We are kind of stagnant. We need to cut harder, everything we do, we need to do harder. Our offense has times when we look nice and smooth but other times where we are just stagnant."
Early in the season the Seminoles struggled against the press and routinely turned the ball over. However, in the last two games FSU has averaged just 13 turnovers, four under their season average. While the 'Noles are doing a better job getting the ball up the court, they are now encountering issues in the halfcourt.
"The press isn't hurting us as much as after we break the press, we are standing around waiting for something to happen," Loucks said. "We have to take some initiative and get the offense started. We need to get into the offense smoothly after presses instead of standing there with the ball."
The most recent example of the offense's shortcomings came against NC State. Deividas Dulkys, the team's third leading scorer averaging 10.3 points per game, attempted just three shots against the Wolfpack.
"We have to run our system," Dulkys said. "If we do that, we get open shots. We haven't done that in these past two games."
While the offense has struggled, the Seminoles' bread and butter is Leonard Hamilton's trademark defense. However, that defense was lacking both against the Terrapins and Wolfpack. Maryland and NC State hit a combined 53-for-115 (46.1%) from the field and 21-for-39 (53.8%) from the perimeter in the last two games.
Hamilton believes the defensive lapses, and the accompanying losses, have taught his team an important lesson.
"We can't back off defensively," Hamilton said. "That is the reason we have had the measure of success that we have had up to this point. I think we have lost a little bit of our defensive intensity over the last week or so and we have to get that back."
Malcolm Delaney, who is averaging 20.8 points and four assists a game, will be the Seminoles biggest challenge on Saturday. Delaney has also made 34-of-88 (38.6%) 3-point attempts this season.
"There are great shooters in the ACC and they are going to make shots, but if you leave a person open, it doesn't matter how great of a shooter they are," Dulkys said. "We have to realize that every possession."
Delaney isn't the only Hokie putting up good offensive numbers. Dorenzo Hudson is averaging 12.3 points per game and Jeff Allen is also a major contributor at 12.1 points per game. Allen is also Virginia Tech's leading rebounder at 8.5 boards per game.
"They play hard and never quit," Dulkys said. "They are going to give it everything they have. We have to match their intensity. We have to do that as well."
Virginia Tech has never won in Tallahassee since joining the ACC. The Seminoles will look to keep it that way, while hoping to get back to .500 in conference play. First tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.