With three straight games against nationally ranked teams, the Florida State basketball team hoped to make a strong statement to those who question whether the Seminoles belong among the nation's top teams.
During an 81-66 loss to No. 12 Wisconsin on Tuesday night, FSU left the wrong kind of impression on a national television audience. The Seminoles, thanks to far too many turnovers and seemingly dozens of breakdowns on the defensive end, just aren't ready to compete with the best teams in the country.
FSU (4-2) needed more than five minutes to score its first points against the Badgers (6-1) in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. And that was actually the best stretch of defense the Seminoles played all game, holding the Badgers to nine points in that opening sequence.
But crossed signals on the defensive end -- post players getting confused on screens, perimeter players losing their man on cuts to the basket -- and nearly every form of turnover imaginable on the offensive end spelled doom for FSU.
The Seminoles, despite shooting a respectable 46 percent from the field, could never mount a serious challenge after the Badgers opened up a double-digit lead at the end of the first half.
In fact, the final possession of that first half seemed to summarize FSU's overall effort. Down 32-23 with less than 20 seconds remaining, junior guard Ralph Mims lost the ball coming off a screen and saw a Wisconsin post player pick him clean. After having the FSU defense knock the ball out of bounds, the Badgers set up a last-second inbounds play and saw their three-point shot turn into an air ball.
But, as two FSU defenders stood under the basket and watched the ball, Wisconsin big man Brian Butch grabbed the missed shot in mid-air and tipped the ball in for a basket at the buzzer.
That play gave Wisconsin a 34-23 lead.
Senior forward Al Thornton did provide some bright moments in the first half with several highlight-reel dunks, but those big baskets were followed up by more productive possessions by the Badgers'
Thornton, who scored 8 of his 10 points in the first half, missed time in both halves with what appeared to be cramps, leaving FSU in a struggle to find consistency and leadership on the floor.
Sophomore guard Toney Douglas led the Seminoles with 24 points, but most of his scoring came when it was simply a case of "too little, too late."
Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker, the preseason selection as player of the year in the Big Ten conference, led the Badgers with 24 points.
The Seminoles hope to end this two-game losing streak when they play host to Florida on Sunday night in the Tucker Center.