Florida State’s defense is one of the stingiest in the country, but it will be put to the test far more frequently with ACC play under way.
The 18th-ranked Seminoles look to continue their early success on defense, and win eight consecutive games for the first time in more than three years Sunday night when they visit Maryland.
Florida State (13-2, 1-0) is eighth in Division I in scoring defense at 56.9 points per game and first in field-goal defense at 33.7 percent. That kind of play has been most evident during the winning streak.
The Seminoles—selected to finish seventh in the ACC—limited Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to just 29.1 percent shooting in Monday’s 94-54 win, their seventh straight game holding an opponent to less than 37 percent. Florida State also pressured the Islanders into turning the ball over 25 times, the third straight game they forced at least 21 turnovers.
Although Florida State did frustrate then-No. 22 Georgia Tech in a 66-59 overtime victory in its conference opener on Dec. 20, most of the Seminoles’ opponents during their run have been against overmatched competition including Florida International, Tennessee-Martin and Alabama A&M, which had combined for 10 wins in 44 games.
The level of play is about to get much tougher.
Led by powerhouses Duke and North Carolina, the ACC is the second-highest scoring conference in the nation, averaging 77.0 points.
The Terrapins (9-4) are the league’s third-best scoring team, averaging 80.0 points, and are coming off one of their best performances of the season.
After a disappointing 83-77 home loss to William & Mary on Dec. 30, Maryland bounced back with an easy 97-63 win over North Carolina-Greensboro last Sunday. Greivis Vasquez had 24 points and Landon Milbourne added 22 as the Terps shot 54.5 percent.
“We emphasized getting back to how we like to be playing,” coach Gary Williams said. “We have to just go play, we have to be aggressive.”
Maryland, picked to finish fifth in the conference, will need to continue that intensity with the start of ACC play. The Terps will also benefit if Vasquez can continue his torrid scoring.
Vasquez is averaging 25.8 points on 56.5 percent shooting in his last four games, but had one of the worst offensive games of his career in last season’s 76-73 overtime loss to Florida State, finishing with six points on 2 of 13 shooting.
Although the Terps lost, they’ve won all five meetings with the Seminoles at the Comcast Center since it opened in the 2002-03 season.
“We’re going to have to go up there and play with a high level of energy and a high level of intelligence,” Florida State associate head coach Stan Jones told the school’s official Web site.
The Seminoles, who haven’t won eight consecutive games since Dec. 3-29, 2006, will also try to build on one of their best offensive games of the season.
Against Corpus Christi, Florida State hit a season-high 12 3-pointers on 24 attempts and shot 57.6 percent from the field. Sophomore Deividas Dulkys led the Seminoles with 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting and has been carrying the offense lately.
With 7-foot-1 Solomon Alabi, Florida State’s leading scorer with 12.1 points per game, failing to reach double figures in each of his last four games, Dulkys has stepped up. He’s averaging 14.4 points on 60.5 percent shooting in his last five games, up from 6.4 points on 32.6 percent shooting in his previous seven.