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January 12, 2009

Noles take lessons from Duke and move forward

There's no time to wallow in defeat when it comes to Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. The games come too quickly, each presenting a new set of challenges.

In the hours that have passed since Saturday's ACC-opening loss at home to then-No. 2 Duke, Leonard Hamilton has stressed to his team both the importance of putting the 66-58 behind them and applying what was learned.

The learning curve is steep at this point for the young 'Noles, who take on N.C. State Tuesday night at the RBC Center in Raleigh. It's essential that they apply what was learned from Sunday's film review of the Duke defeat against a vastly different Wolfpack team.

"I think we were very anxious to play against a good team like Duke and I thought, from an energy standpoint, we gave tremendous effort," Hamilton said. "I just didn't think we maintained our poise as well as we should.

"I think this is going to accelerate the learning process and we are going to be much better prepared going on the road playing against North Carolina State."

Hamilton is hopeful that playing seven games away from home at this stage of the season will serve the 'Noles well in their ACC road opener. At the very least, they won't be going through it for the first time.

From that perspective, facing a quality team like Duke should be beneficial.

"Until you've been in a game with Duke you don't understand the level of intensity, level of mental preparation and concentration necessary to be successful," said FSU assistant coach Stan Jones, who was responsible for the game plan against the Blue Devils.

In Jones' estimation, the six Seminole newcomers showed signs of being "a little star-struck."

Jones noted that freshman point guard Luke Loucks struggled more than most of his rookie teammates while trying to cope with the intensity of the game, but has since responded with two strong practices. He praised the poise shown by fellow freshmen Chris Singleton and Deividas Dulkys, who seemed to adapt as the game progressed.

Handling those jitters will only come with more playing time. While Jones pointed out that the team largely did a good job recognizing and executing the defensive game plan, they struggled offensive.

"We talked about it at halftime with the kids," he said. "We got 34 shots at the goal in the half."

Unfortunately, they made only seven of those, for a woeful 20.6 percent.

"Sometimes the adrenaline affects (shooting)," Jones added. "Our kids have to learn to move the ball a lot better and have to be a lot more focused getting open using screens and getting open not using screens."

N.C. State - which ranks third in the ACC in scoring defense, behind Duke and FSU - will test those skills. Sidney Lowe's Wolfpack prefer a slower tempo at both ends, working the shot clock offensively while pressuring on and off the ball defensively.

"They walk it down and move it around," Jones said of the Wolfpack, who are led by seniors Brian McCauley and Courtney Fells, and junior Brandon Costner. "And they keep you at the same pace and try to get you to take contested shots."

To counter that style, the 'Noles will need another robust rebounding effort, like they turned in against the Blue Devils. FSU held a commanding 43-34 advantage on the boards. They also forced Duke into 17 turnovers; a trend they would like to duplicate against a Wolfpack team that turns the ball over more than any other team in the league.

Those were the bright spots in an otherwise uneven performance.

Now the Seminoles' focus turns to evening their ACC record after two games.

"We gave one away at home and we have to go back and get one on the road," said Jones.

Play, learn, adapt and move on.

The cycle has just begun.


Talk about it on the Tribal Council or the Hoops Message Board.



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