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Round 2: FSU vs. Miami for state, ACC bragging rights

After playing two games in three days, Florida State now faces a different type of quick turnaround: A second matchup with Miami in 11 days.

There are quirks to the ACC schedule each season. One of them is facing a rival in the Hurricanes, whom the Seminoles welcomed to Tallahassee last week and took away a 65-64 win, one that was secured when RayQuan Evans drove the lane and drew a pair of free-throw attempts to put the Seminoles ahead with .8 seconds left. 

“Sometimes it’s a plus and sometimes it’s not,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They’re who they are, we’re who we are. It’s going to be the team that comes the closest to playing to their potential that is going to win the game. They have proven they are an outstanding team. They have been on an unbelievable roll. We don’t want them to have a mental edge but I’m sure that no one wants to lose to someone nine times in a row. That’s going to be an added motivation for them … Obviously, we blew them out by one point in Tallahassee, one-point blowout. They know the game could have gone either way on our court and we know, it too.”

FSU and Miami are viewed as the top programs or two of the top three teams in the ACC this season going into Saturday’s showdown in Coral Gables (2 p.m. on ESPN). The Hurricanes (6-1 in the ACC) are atop the league’s standings, owning a win over Duke and North Carolina with only a loss at FSU. The Seminoles (5-2) opened ACC play with a disappointing home loss to Syracuse but have knocked off the Blue Devils in overtime as well as defeating Miami for an eighth straight time.

It’s a big January game on Tobacco Road, even if it’s far from the league’s Carolina roots. FSU (12-5) grabbed a resume-defining win over Duke on Tuesday, but the Seminoles are also in a position where they need to stack wins over highly regarded teams (especially on the road) to strengthen their argument of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Hamilton said after the rescheduled North Florida game on Thursday that forward Malik Osborne “could have played but we chose to not let him get out and take a chance on aggravating” his ankle/foot injury. The coaching staff is managing his minutes and breaks between games.

“We thought we would err on the side of being cautious and not play him in this game because we think he’d be better served to rest and get treatment,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully, it won’t impact that much our schedule for the rest of the year.”

And in Hamilton’s view, a second game against a familiar opponent means very little about making any changes to the game plan. What the Seminoles have shown is who they are and vice versa.

“I’m not sure they’re going to change very much of who they are and how they’ve been playing, offensively and defensively,” Hamilton said. “And I doubt very seriously if we’re going to change who we are which has been working for us. It’s going to come down to which team will execute.”

Quick hitters

Florida State is 45-15 in ACC regular season play (.750 winning percentage) since the start of the conference schedule in 2018- 19. 

The Seminoles lead the series with the Hurricanes 52-36.

Matthew Cleveland is averaging 13.7 points in FSU’s seven games in 2022, which includes five ACC wins and a 6-1 overall record since a Jan. 1 win at N.C. State.

Anthony Polite has 27 steals in 17 games, well ahead of the pace from a season ago (30 steals in 21 games).

Caleb Mills is averaging 19.3 points in his last three games.

John Butler Jr. leads FSU with a 43.6 percentage from 3-point range.

RayQuan Evans has made 14 straight free-throw attempts.