After its second loss in five games, Florida State’s return to the national rankings is in danger of ending. A poor effort against Florida International could certainly push the 21st-ranked Seminoles out of the AP Top 25.
Florida State will try to earn its first victory as a ranked team this season Sunday against the visiting Golden Panthers and new coach Isiah Thomas.
The Seminoles (6-2) reached their current ranking Nov. 30 after winning the Old Spice Classic, but they couldn’t sustain the momentum from that tournament championship Wednesday night at No. 15 Ohio State.
As in its previous four games, Florida State had problems taking care of the ball in the 77-64 defeat.
The Seminoles committed 20 turnovers in the loss, giving them an average of 20.4 over the last five games. That sloppy play has contributed to them scoring 57.4 points per game in that time after averaging 85.3 points in their opening three contests.
Unlike its victories in Orlando, the Seminoles couldn’t rely on their defense to compensate in their sixth straight game away from home. Florida State had allowed an average of 52.0 points in its previous three games, but gave up a season high for points as the Buckeyes were 12 of 28 from 3-point range.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, were 2 of 16 from behind the arc.
“We got beat by a team tonight that played with a lot more energy at the defensive end,” coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They kept us from getting into any rhythm on offense.”
Sophomore center Solomon Alabi, however, scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his third double-double with the Seminoles and first this season. Leading scorer Chris Singleton, the MVP of the Old Spice Classic, fouled out after totaling eight points and eight rebounds.
Singleton, Alabi and Derwin Kitchen are all scoring more than 11.0 points per game.
They have a chance to improve those averages against one of the worst defensive teams in the nation.
In its first season under Thomas, Florida International (3-7) is allowing 79.2 points per game, but the Golden Panthers have held their past two opponents during an eight-game road trip to fewer than 70.
They also earned their first road victory of the season Thursday, 61-56 over winless Florida A&M. Senior forward Marlon Bright scored a season-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and FIU held the Rattlers to 32.8 percent shooting.
Bright is one of four players averaging in double figures, led by junior forward Marvin Roberts (15.0 points).
Roberts has helped the Golden Panthers score 69.1 points per game, more than a point higher than Florida State’s average.
FIU also won the previous meeting between the teams on Dec. 12, 2004, in Tallahassee.
“Last time, they came here they handed us a loss, so it’s a game we can’t overlook,” associate coach Stan Jones said. “Obviously, Coach Thomas has been around a long time and been a lot of places. … We’re going to have to play at a high level and with a lot of energy.”
Florida State, however, leads the series 7-1.