TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Come Monday, No. 23 Florida State — losers of two straight — likely will find themselves on the outside looking in of The Associated Press Top 25 poll.
But the Seminoles will get one final shot to impress voters before they fill out their ballots this weekend.
Florida State (12-4 overall, 1-3 ACC) hosts Syracuse (12-5, 1-3) on Saturday in a duel of ACC cellar dwellers. Florida State and Syracuse are tied for second-to-last in the standings after great starts to their nonconference schedules that has not translated into conference success.
Syracuse raced out to an 11-2 start before dropping three of its first four games in ACC play, while Florida State was 11-1 before opening its ACC slate with the same results.
The Seminoles’ latest disappointment came Wednesday night when they saw their remarkable 28-game home win streak snapped — the third-longest in the nation at the time — by Louisville. The Cardinals rallied from 13 points down at halftime to stun Florida State 73-69 at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Before that loss, the Seminoles hadn’t dropped a game on their home floor since losing to Georgia Tech 86-80 on Feb. 17, 2016.
Now, both teams face a must-win Saturday to avoid falling further behind the rest of the ACC.
“Every game in the ACC is big, but this one (Saturday against Syracuse), we’ve got to get it,” Florida State guard and leading scorer Terance Mann (15.1 points per game) told Seminoles.com following Wednesday’s loss.
Mann certainly did his part Wednesday, scoring a game-high 25 points to match his career high. But it wasn’t enough as the Seminoles went ice-cold in the second half against the Cardinals. They were 0-for-8 from 3-point range after halftime before guard Braian Angola drilled two 3-pointers in the final minute to keep the Seminoles’ hopes alive.
“It was an unfortunate loss,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It’s painful. They were very, very disappointed, but that’s part of the growth process. You have to figure out how you bounce back when you have a defeat. Everyone is going to lose some games in our league. It’s just the nature of (a tough conference like) the ACC.”
To do that, the Seminoles will have to find a way to overcome an angry Orange team that was a possession or two away Tuesday from upsetting No. 3 Virginia, which nipped Syracuse 68-61 in its last outing.
“We had some opportunities, but just couldn’t get the ball in the basket,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told reporters following Tuesday’s loss — the Orange’s third straight.
Syracuse, which is led by guard Tyus Battle’s 19.1 points per game, will be facing its second straight Top 25 opponent in Florida State on Saturday. The Orange are 0-2 against Top 25 teams this year, losing to No. 12 Kansas and No. 3 Virginia.
Syracuse’s last trip to Tallahassee was in 2016, and the Seminoles earned a 78-73 victory.
And Florida State hopes it can make it two in a row and help its coach secure a piece of ACC history in the process. With the Seminoles’ victory over No. 20 North Carolina on Jan. 3 in Tallahassee, Hamilton moved into a tie for eighth place in the ACC’s all-time career wins list for ACC games (regular season and ACC Tournament).
He joined Duke legend Vic Bubas with 128 career ACC wins.