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Florida State basketball adapts to new challenges while maintaining top-15 ranking

It’s been an interesting start to the season for the Florida State basketball team. In addition to learning new roles and welcoming new teammates, the Seminoles are learning what it means to be ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation.

No. 11 FSU earned a 79-71 win over UConn Saturday, improving to 8-1.

It has been an exciting ride for the Seminoles so far this season, with four of FSU’s last five games decided by eight or fewer points. Aside from a 66-60 loss to defending national champion Villanova, the Seminoles have found a way to get the job done in tight situations.

“I think that from a talent and a physical level, we have enough to win those games,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I think that from a maturing and an experience level is where we’re still a work in progress. I think there’s reason for us to be at that point. We have guys returning, but all their roles are changing. So we’re actually out there sometimes still finding out who’s our best in certain situations.”

Trent Forrest has emerged as one of FSU’s clutch players.

In his first year as a starter, the 6-foot-4 junior came up with two big plays to help secure a 73-72 victory over then-No. 19 Purdue.

Forrest is one of the team’s top scorers, averaging 10 points per game. He said the team really absorbed the lessons learned during last season’s run to the Elite Eight.

“It goes to show the stuff they taught us in the offseason and having the experiences we’ve had, so things that probably would’ve affected us last year, they’re not affecting us as much as we’re still able to win games,” he said.

“Being able to get out of dips [is one of those things]. I feel like that’s one thing we focused on this summer — trying to eliminate those. Even now when we have those, we know how to get up out of them. Like in the … game against Troy, they made runs. Last year I feel like it would’ve been hard for us to get the lead, but now I feel like we have such older guys that we’re able to know exactly what to do to get the lead back.”

Forrest is joined in the backcourt by David Nichols, a senior transfer from the University of Albany who has hit his stride the past few games and become a player the Seminoles can count on, according to Hamilton.

Nichols said the team’s collective attitude made his adjustment period a smooth one.

“Just how bought-in everyone is really helped me buy in,” he said. “Just believing in Coach Ham and the coaching and the vision they have for us and just going out there and executing on the court.”

The Seminoles enter a stretch during which they will face four consecutive unranked opponents who will test the maturity and mindset of the team. Hamilton said his squad is still adapting to opponents bringing their A-game against FSU every night.

Forrest said facing Troy showed the Seminoles how fired up an unranked team will be going into a match-up against a top-15 team and helped prepare FSU for the upcoming challenge.

“Even mid-major teams like Troy, they’re going to give us their best and they want to be the team to kind of upset us,” he said. “So we just know we have to come out every day and compete.”

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