After Monday night’s 16-point victory over Troy, during which his team led by just two in the second half, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said the Seminoles needed to learn to play as if they’re the hunted.
They need to understand how an Elite Eight berth and a No. 11 ranking by their name can ratchet up the level of competition from opponents.
That certainly figures to be the case on Saturday night in Newark, N.J., when the 7-1 Seminoles take on perennial power UConn (7-2) and first-year head coach Dan Hurley.
The Huskies are no doubt looking for a signature non-conference win that will look good on a March resume — In Hurley’s home state no less, as part of the Never Forget Tribute Classic.
“There’s no question it’s going to be a (tough atmosphere),” Hamilton said. “That can’t do anything but help us. That can’t do anything but help us from a growth and maturing standpoint to face that type of atmosphere.
“So this is great for us in terms of trying to continue to keep moving our program forward. This is an important road game for us, and we’re still in the developing stage.”
The Hurleys are basketball royalty in New Jersey.
Dan and his brother Bobby, who won two national championships as a player at Duke, starred at famous prep school St. Anthony’s under the tutelage of their father and head coach, Bob.
After leading Rhode Island to a 26-8 record in 2018, Dan Hurley was tabbed to be the next head coach at UConn, which fired Kevin Ollie for “just cause” during an NCAA investigation last April.
The Huskies, who won the 2014 national title, had missed the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons.
If they’re going to get back there, a win over a highly ranked ACC foe will likely help immensely.
So the Seminoles understand they’ll be getting UConn’s best effort on Saturday night. Just like they have from just about every opponent they’ve played this season.
“I feel like it’s a good point for us,” junior guard Trent Forrest said. “But we want to go higher and get better, things like that. But at the same time we can’t get satisfied this early in the season. So we still have to work hard every day.”
Forrest admits the Seminoles haven’t played their best basketball recently. But they’re still 7-1 and ranked No. 11 heading into Saturday night’s showdown with the Huskies.
“It just goes to show the stuff they taught us in the offseason, just having the experience that we have, things that would have affected us last year are not affecting us as much and we’re still able to win games,” Forrest said.
Cofer still doubtful for Saturday
Senior forward Phil Cofer, the leading returning scorer for the Seminoles, is getting close to returning from the broken foot he suffered in preseason practice, Hamilton said on Thursday.
Cofer will travel with the team this weekend, but the FSU head coach likely will be extra cautious and allow Cofer to rest another week before the Seminoles return to action on Dec. 17.
“It appears that Phil has progressed from a healing standpoint, but now he hasn’t had a full day of practice, he has not had any contact at all,” Hamilton told the media Thursday.
“He’s had some light shooting and some light shooting with his team in shooting drills.”