FSU looks to break zone again vs. Syracuse

Florida State typically finds that their length and athleticism gives opponents fits on the defensive end of the court.

While the defensive principles are dramatically different, Syracuse uses its trademark 2-3 zone as well as length on the perimeter to frustrate.

“They have 6-8 and 6-9 on the wings and you’re used to playing guards on the wings in a typical 2-3 zone,” FSU senior guard Trent Forrest said. “I feel like their length gives a lot of people problems because they can cover so much ground and they kind of sag back and force you into these shots that you think are there. And then as soon as you shoot it, they’re far back, but they’re still able to contest with their length.”

FSU has had success against Syracuse in past years, taking three of the last four games. FSU took an 80-62 win at Syracuse in 2019, breaking the zone by shooting 30 of 55 (54.5 percent) from the floor and 11 of 22 (50 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.

Passing the ball and taking good looks from 3-point range will be key when FSU and Syracuse face off on Saturday at noon (ESPN2). And being patient.

“You just have to work them from side to side and get them in some rotations and then you’ll be able to attack,” Forrest said. “You can’t get too greedy, I guess.”

And perhaps it helps that FSU is unselfish in many regards. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who admittedly is comfortable with a man-to-man defense, admires Syracuse’s consistency in using the zone.

“They feel that if they take certain spots on the floor away from you that the percentages goes in their favor,” Hamilton said. “In other words, they do things in their zone that most people find it challenging the way they rotate and shift. …

“When you’re playing against them, if you have some success, because they’re so experienced at it, they’ll make that adjustment and take that away from you. You have to be prepared to have multiple systems that you can take advantage of because they’re going to find a way to hamper you from scoring.”

Bouncing back from a loss

Give FSU points for this: The Seminoles have bounced back from their three previous losses with double-digit victories.

FSU has regrouped with the benefit of depth, defense and veteran leaders. Hamilton also credited his assistants, who rotate the scouting of upcoming opponents.

“I’ve got great assistants, we do a good job of analyzing why we’ve lost and we are able to come back and teach and correct it and move on to the next game,” Hamilton said. “We don’t try to dwell on it. We realize that very few teams, or if any, will ever go undefeated. We try to use a loss as a teaching tool and move on. Try to have more of a positive approach than a negative approach.”

Syracuse 14-10, 7-6 at No. 8 FSU (20-4, 10-3 ACC)

Time/TV: Saturday at noon on ESPN2.

FSU potential starters: 6-foot-6 G Devin Vassell (13.4 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 42 3-point %), 6-5 G Trent Forrest (11.6 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 4.2 assists), 6-5 G M.J. Walker (10.4 ppg.), 6-9 F Malik Osborne (6.1 ppg., 4.7 rpg.), 6-8 F RaiQuan Gray (6.3 ppg., 3.5 rpg.).

FSU reserves: 6-6 G Anthony Polite (6.1 ppg.), 6-8 F Patrick Williams (8.5 ppg., 3.5 rpg.), 7-foot C Dominik Olejniczak (3.4 ppg., 2.3 rpg.), 7-foot-1 Balsa Koprivica (5.1 ppg., 2.5 rpg.), 6-6 F Wyatt Wilkes (3.7 ppg., 38.8 3-point %).

Syracuse potential starters: 6-6 F Elijah Hughes (18.6 ppg., 5.0 rpg.), 6-6 G Buddy Boeheim (16.3 ppg.), 6-1 G Joseph Girard III (12.6 ppg.), 6-10 F Marek Dolezaj (10.5 ppg., 6.9 rpg.), 6-7 F Quincy Guierrer (6.8 ppg., 5.3 rpg.).

Injury note: Hughes suffered a groin injury against NC State earlier this week and his status for the game is not known.

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