Hamilton: Seminoles sputtering but confident they will bounce back

Florida State is back on the court on Saturday for the first time in 17 days when the Seminoles play at North Carolina State.

The break has been a challenge for the Seminoles, who saw three December games rescheduled due to COVID. FSU was prepared to play at Boston College on Wednesday, but the Eagles were not able to go due to COVID protocol.

“These are some very interesting times that college sports are going through these days, especially basketball,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It’s kind of hard to digest all of it. We’re just trying to go with the flow, try to stay safe and stay with protocol. This is starting out to be kind of like it was last year. You don’t know what to expect.”

Hamilton said he tested positive for COVID but had no symptoms, and he also mentioned missing a practice. He said the Seminoles were able to return to the court but were limited in some of their four practices — one day having just five players available and another using six players. The team’s weight room is also shut down.

“The whole country is dealing the same thing,” Hamilton said.

It’s the second straight season the Seminoles have had a layoff of more than two weeks, with another coming Dec. 29, 2020 to Jan. 13, 2021. 

While FSU (6-4) is off to a lackluster start, continuity has been a challenge. The Seminoles have been without center Tanor Ngom (missed six games), guard Rayquan Evans (two games) and Matthew Cleveland (one game). Cam’Ron Fletcher’s minutes have been limited due to a facial fracture that has required him to wear a clear mask.

Hamilton outlined some of the challenges with a rotation that is often leaning on freshmen or newcomers to the program.

“Not only do you have to coach differently in the game you have to be more patient in practice,” Hamilton said. “It’s just the little things, the habits that you’re trying to develop. You just don’t develop those habits in a short period of time … We’re sputtering a lot right now. We’re sputtering. But that’s ok. We’ll get it back because that’s what we do.”

Saturday’s game will tip at 4 p.m. on ACC Network.

Quick hitters

FSU leads the ACC with 10 steals per game, with guard Caleb Mills leading the conference at 2.2 per game.

Among the areas where the Seminoles must improve: field-goal percentage defense (40.8), 3-point shooting (34.9 percent), free-throw percentage (68.9) and defensive rebounding. FSU also led at the half in losses to Purdue, Syracuse and South Carolina.

The Seminoles are 79-24 (.767 winning percentage) since the start of the 2018-19 season.

FSU has won three straight games against NC State.

The Wolfpack (7-6) have lost four straight games. NC State is led by 6-foot-7 guard Dereon Seabron (18.6 points, 10.4 rebounds), 6-4 guard Terquavion Smith (13.8 points) as well as 6-7 forward Jericole Helms (15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds).