The banner was ready. So was the ladder.
Florida State is the ACC regular-season champions. And the Seminoles cut down the nets with a resounding victory in what was a perfect home regular season.
Balsa Koprivica scored 15 points and Dominik Olejniczak added a season-high 14 points and five rebounds on senior day as No. 7 Florida State clinched its first ACC regular-season title in school history with an 80-62 victory over Boston College on Saturday.
“We’ve coined our own phrase: we’re new bloods,” said Leonard Hamilton, who is in his 18th season as Florida State’s coach. “We’re not going to catch up with the 80 years that were before us. We’re fighting for our spot and our position, the hierarchy of the most respected programs in the history of college basketball.
“It’s important for us because we get a notch on our belt. And we have to enjoy this. But we think we’re just getting started.”
The Seminoles (26-5, 16-4 ACC) had a banner ready and unrolled it just minutes after Saturday’s win to celebrate the Seminoles’ accomplishment, which was also secured with Virginia’s victory over Louisville on Saturday. Florida State will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, looking to claim that title for the first time since cutting down the nets in 2012.
Hamilton took over a program that was a rebuilding job in the early 2000s and it took time. The Seminoles’ first NCAA Tournament appearance under Hamilton came in year 7, in 2008-09. But Hamilton now has Florida State among the top-10 teams in the nation and they are poised to be a top seed in the NCAA Tournament later this month, making their fourth straight trip to the Big Dance.
The Florida State coach acknowledged that in an era where the top teams in the sport are often defined by one-and-dones to the NBA that the Seminoles have the opposite formula.
“We have created a culture of guys who are willing to sacrifice minutes, playing time and some of the notoriety,” Hamilton said.
The Seminoles bought in during the recruiting process. Guard Trent Forrest has 104 wins, the most of any Florida State player all-time. But even he didn’t think what was accomplished on Saturday was realistic.
“You always have the dream, you talk about winning the ACC championship but I honestly didn’t know,” Forrest said. “With Florida State being a football school traditionally I didn’t know.”
Now, the rest of the ACC knows. Florida State did it on Saturday by showing off its depth as 14 players scored and the Seminoles shot an efficient 31 of 73 (42.5 percent) from the floor and the defense was suffocating in forcing BC to commit 19 turnovers.
Koprivicia matched his season high in points as both of Florida State’s 7-footers scored in double figures for the first time in an ACC game. This wasn’t in the plans for Olejniczak, who has only been in Tallahassee a short time following his grad transfer from Ole Miss.
“Being part of it feels special,” Olejniczak said. “For me it was only one year and I was able to accomplish it with my teammates. That’s big time. … I wasn’t expecting being ACC champion.”
A year after losing Terance Mann, Mfiondu Kabengele, Phil Cofer, Christ Koumadje, David Nichols and P.J. Savoy, not many people gave FSU much of a chance. The Seminoles were unranked in the preseason and fifth in the ACC media’s preseason poll.
But on Saturday, the Seminoles are ACC champions. And, if Hamilton is right, the party is just getting started.
HONOR FOR FORREST
Forrest has been named the winner of the ACC’s Skip Prosser Award, which is presented to the league’s top men’s basketball student-athlete. Forrest, who has a 3.43 grade-point average, earned his bachelor’s degree in December and is working towards his master’s degree.
Forrest with 1,139 points PLUS and is third on the career steals list 224 at FSU, fifth in assists 454 and 10th in free throws made 334
Florida State was able to rest a number of its starters and secure a day of firsts: an ACC regular-season title and a No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament.
Boston College shot just 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) from the floor in the first half and couldn’t keep up with the Seminoles’ depth.
Florida State has earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament and will play the Clemson-Miami winner on Thursday.
PHOTOS OF THE DAY
Leonard Hamilton finishes off the ceremonial cutting of the net:
Two seniors are honored:
HAMILTON CUTS DOWN THE NET
THE BANNER WAS READY