Of late, clouds have been brewing for the ACC’s “Sunshine State” squads. With Sunday’s intrastate showdown in Tallahassee (2 p.m. ET, ACC Network), the No. 14 Florida State Seminoles (16-3, 5-3) and Miami Hurricanes (11-8, 3-5) will be seeking to regain some shine, spurring a hopefully successful sprint through the second half of their conference schedule.
On Thursday evening, each team tallied a needed win, with FSU besting Wake Forest on the road, 70-65, and Miami surviving Clemson at home, 68-64. These somewhat unconvincing victories did not erase concerns raised by previous stumbles.
After initially appearing to be contenders for the regular-season ACC crown, FSU currently sits a tier below Louisville and North Carolina State. In a mid-January matchup in Raleigh, the Seminoles proved that they were not ready to run with the Wolfpack. They also allowed the upstart Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to claim a resounding win in Tallahassee.
It thus was unsurprising that head coach Sue Semrau had emphasized the need for more consistent aggression. After FSU’s win over Wake Forest, Semrau insisted:
We needed to play more aggressively and I just felt like the group that started was the most aggressive in practice. We need to get back to that and making sure on the defensive end and rebounding we’re doing the things we need to do.
The Seminoles did succeed in stalling the Hurricanes during their early January matchup, grabbing the 73-62 victory in Coral Gables on Jan. 5. WNBA prospect Kiah Gillespie put on a show, going 8-of-11 from the floor for 21 points. A similar performance on Sunday should situate the Noles for another win.
Even more importantly, a win might allow FSU to establish momentum before it faces Louisville on Feb. 6. Following Sunday’s game, the Seminoles will meet Boston College and Pittsburgh. Winning these winnable games means the Noles will arrive in Louisville on a four-game win streak. Then, if they can upset the currently No. 5 Cardinals, the Seminoles will be right back in the middle of the quest for the ACC regular-season championship.
Similarly, Miami could use an upset victory over FSU to find needed momentum.
After entering the season ranked in the top-20, the Hurricanes have struggled, stumbling to one of their slowest starts in recent seasons. A foot injury to ACC Preseason Player of the Year Beatrice Mompremier, another top WNBA prospect, explains Miami’s inability to meet expectations. While the timeline for Mompremier’s return remains unclear, the Hurricanes’ schedule does begin to soften a bit, possibly allowing them to begin to collect some wins before Mompremier is back on the court. After an assumedly tough tilt with Georgia Tech on Thursday, the Canes then will meet Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia and Clemson before a challenging contest against NC State.
But first, the Hurricanes must attend to the test presented by the Seminoles. Against Clemson, Miami secured the win by sharing the ball, totaling 18 total assists. For the season, the Canes are 8-0 when they toss more than 15 assists.
Big win for the squad last night! pic.twitter.com/G2wugVTl5o— Canes Women's BBall (@CanesWBB) January 24, 2020
If Miami can combine this egalitarianism with the intensity it showed during the first game against FSU, the Hurricanes may well steal a win. Although they lost on Jan. 5, the Canes forced the Noles into 21 turnovers, while also outrebounding them 36-33, even with Mompremier absent.
On her team’s performance, head coach Katie Meier stated:
To outrebound Florida State and force them into 21 turnovers, is a heck of an effort. We played hard enough to win today but we didn’t play smart enough and we’ll fix that.
In short, look for Miami to try to make it into a spirited, scrappy “Sunshine State” showdown in order to try to slow down a more talented Florida State team.
No. 14 Florida State Seminoles (16-3, 5-3) vs. Miami Hurricanes (11-8, 3-5)
When: Sunday, Jan. 26, at 2 p.m. ET
Where: Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL
How to watch: ACC Network