Florida State at Wake Forest

Florida State (13-6, 4-1) at Wake Forest (11-8, 2-3), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3

Bernard James is becoming a consistent force on both ends for Florida State.

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton’s team is riding high with wins over North Carolina and Duke (the latter on the road) in a ten-day span, but he knows they have to maintain their focus. “In order for the recent successes that we’ve had to be meaningful, we know we need to not allow ourselves not to be mentally ready on Wednesday in Winston-Salem,” Hamilton said. And there’s some history there: in 2007, Florida State beat Duke and then lost five in a row. Last year, Florida State started ACC play 5-1 (including a win over Duke) and then lost two of their next three after that: one was at North Carolina, but the other was by 18 points at Clemson (62-44). All the talk has been about how FSU has a great chance to win the league, only getting Duke once more (at home) and not having to play Carolina again. But they have two dates left with Virginia and Miami and one at N.C. State, all of which are losable games. Tonight is the type of game Florida State can’t afford to lose.

Stat to watch: Free-throw attempts. A big key for Florida State’s recent offensive resurgence has been getting to the free-throw line. In four straight ACC wins, the Seminoles have averaged 22.3 attempts and made 79% of them (they shot 69% before that). Florida State tied for the most attempts by a North Carolina opponent this year. The Seminoles lost to Clemson and had a close game against Virginia Tech by averaging 24.5 fouls per game; they’ve averaged 20.3 since. And both North Carolina and Duke attempted their third-fewest free throws in a game this year. Wake Forest has been struggling because they aren’t getting to the line as much, but that has changed recently for them as well. The Deacons are averaging 27.5 attempts in the last two games after averaging 11.3 in the three ACC games before that. Wake depends on getting to the line and keeping their opponents off of it: in two ACC wins, opponents average 12 attempts and in losses, they’ve averaged 27.3. If FSU struggles offensively at all, free throws and foul trouble could come into play, particularly at Wake Forest.

Most important players: Ty Walker, Wake Forest and Bernard James, Florida State. Walker seemed like he could be a game-changer for Wake Forest, but he managed to play just 16 minutes at Duke while picking up four fouls. But at Boston College on Sunday, he was a game-changer with six points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in just 24 minutes. He was dominant inside and he’s averaging 4.4 blocks in ACC play with three or more in four straight games. “He’s really starting to get comfortable and confident out there. He affects the game in a positive way around the rim coupled with the fact that he’s been able to help us a little bit offensively,” Wake head coach Jeff Bzdelik said in his Monday teleconference. “We’ve had some issues guarding the ball so with Ty back there to erase some mistakes, that’s a plus for us.”

FSU’s Bernard James has averaged 13.8 points (second-most on the team) during the Seminoles’ four-game winning streak and has added 9.5 rebounds and nearly two blocks a game. He didn’t have an overwhelming game against Duke (5-of-7 for 12 points) or North Carolina, for that matter (3-of-5 for eight points), but his physicality and defense made a huge impact on both ends. He’s always referred to as a “grown man”, but he’s still relatively new to basketball, even at 26 years old. But he might be starting to develop some consistency, which would be huge for the Seminoles.

Random stat: This is directly from the Florida State game notes:

13 Florida State is undefeated, 13-0, when it outscores its opponent.

Um…right.

Prediction: Florida State 75, Wake Forest 60

 

Last week: 7-5

Season: 79-31 (17-12 ACC)

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