Florida State cracked the Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade thanks in large part to a road win over a top-10 team. Now, avoiding a letdown should be the only concern with struggling Virginia coming to town.
The 25th-ranked Seminoles look to protect their ranking Tuesday night when they host the ACC rival Cavaliers, losers of seven straight.
Florida State (18-5, 5-3) rallied from a 19-point second-half deficit to stun then-No. 10 Clemson 65-61 on the road Saturday night. The Seminoles’ first win over a ranked conference opponent in more than two years propelled the team into the AP Top 25 for the first time since Jan. 19, 1998.
Florida State guard Toney Douglas was held to six points in the first half before scoring 17 after halftime, including 12 in the Seminoles’ 23-4 run over the final 8:30.
After the game, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton stressed the importance of looking forward instead of just relishing the upset victory.
“This is still a team that’s growing and developing,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to enjoy it, but we’ve got to keep everything in proper perspective.”
Hamilton, ranked for the first time in his seven seasons at the helm, felt the same way after the poll was released Monday.
“(The national ranking) gives our players and our basketball program a certain level of recognition,” he said. “But, as a coach, we realize that in order for it to be meaningful we need to continue to keep putting in good work and we need to continue winning.”
That’s usually a challenge in the ACC, the home of five ranked teams including No. 7 Wake Forest, which hosts Florida State on Saturday.
The Seminoles, though, have to feel good about their chances against the Cavaliers (7-12, 1-7), who have lost seven straight conference games since opening ACC play with an overtime win over Georgia Tech on Dec. 28.
Virginia, last in the ACC with 73.7 points allowed per game, has given up 79.0 during its losing streak, which continued with a 76-61 loss to No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday.
The Cavaliers have lost seven straight games against ranked opponents, including all four this season, but freshman guard Sylven Landesberg claims he’s not discouraged with the team’s recent struggles.
“We’re not going to back down. We’re going to keep fighting, keep playing our game and go after you,” said Landesberg, Virginia’s leading scorer with 17.9 points per game. “You have to have a short memory in this game.”
Hopefully that will help the Cavaliers forget their 73-62 home loss to the Seminoles on Jan. 24. Douglas, leading the ACC in scoring in conference play with 23.9 points per game, scored 21 points and went 8-for-11 from the field as Florida State shot 50.0 percent in that game.
Landesberg led Virginia with 24 points and six rebounds.
The Cavaliers could use another strong outing from their star freshman as they try to snap a six-game skid in Tallahassee. Florida State hasn’t dropped a home game against Virginia since a 69-66 loss to the then-No. 12 Cavaliers on Feb. 17, 2001.