If anyone thinks Florida State is only a football school, this season should finally end those thoughts. The Seminoles are 18-2 and ranked No. 6 in the nation, a perch that’s higher than North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and Louisville.
So while Georgia Tech can be grateful to return home to McCamish Pavilion, it won’t have an easy game waiting for it. The Yellow Jackets (11-8, 3-4 ACC) host Florida State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
“They’re really good,” Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said. “They’re a team that can make a Final Four run. They’re deep, they’re well-coached, and they’ve got pros on their team. We’re going to have to be really good if we’re going to have any opportunity to beat them.”
Florida State is a high-level offensive team that requires maximum effort and minimum mistakes from an outgunned Georgia Tech team. The Seminoles average 85.7 points, second in the ACC, and lead the conference with 49.8 percent field goal percentage.
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“They’re a high-level team,” Pastner said. “They play a lot of guys, and all the guys are able to play. I haven’t seen all his teams, but I believe this is (head coach Leonard) Hamilton’s most talented team. They’re really good.”
Florida State, which is 6-1 in the ACC, is young, too. Sophomore Dwayne Bacon averages 17.4 points and is equally adept at driving to the basket and pulling up for a 3-pointer. He leads the team in free throws and 3-pointers. Freshman Jonathan Isaac averages 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds and was named the national player of the week after posting back-to-back double-doubles in wins over Notre Dame and Louisville.
The recent series with Florida State has been lopsided in favor of the Seminoles. Georgia Tech won last year’s game in Tallahassee to break a 10-game losing streak to Florida State, but 10 of the past 17 games have been decided by four or fewer points. The all-time series is tied at 16.
If Georgia Tech is going to have a chance, it can’t afford to miss close shots like it did in Saturday’s 62-49 loss to Virginia. Georgia Tech trailed 29-28 with 4:26 left in the first half but failed to score again before halftime with Virginia taking a 35-28 lead at the break. That stretch included two turnovers and a missed layup. Virginia pulled away to a double-digit lead in the second half and was not threatened.
“We’ve got to be able to score the ball, and we missed a lot of layups,” Pastner said. “It’s been a point of contention for us. We’ve got to continue to get better at it, work at it and hope we put the ball in the basket in those situations.”
Georgia Tech will also need a bounceback game from Ben Lammers, who scored a season-low seven points against the Cavaliers. Lammers was just 3-for-12 from the floor, partly because of a good defensive effort from Virginia’s Jack Salt and partly because Lammers was having an off night.
“He got some really good looks, and we’ll live with those every day,” Pastner said. “If they go in, we’ve got a good chance to win the game. If they don’t, it makes it really hard for us. We are severely limited offensively. If we have one or two guys that aren’t at a high level, it becomes very hard for us to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Because of Florida State’s offensive abilities, the Yellow Jackets can’t afford to have an off night if they want to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.
“We’ll need to be near perfect in areas we can control if we’re going to have a chance,” Pastner said.
After playing at No. 12 Virginia and hosting No. 6 Florida State, the Yellow Jackets host No. 14 Notre Dame on Saturday. It is the third time this season the Yellow Jackets have faced three-consecutive ranked teams.
“This league is a gauntlet,” Pastner said. “We’ve got a tough stretch coming up.”