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February 15, 2012
A lot has changed since the last time Virginia Tech and Florida State met.
Following dreadful losses to Princeton in December and a 20-point drubbing at the hands of Clemson in the ACC opener just three days prior to a Jan. 10 date in Blacksburg, the Seminoles were reeling.
An 0-2 ACC start was in play. Hopes of even making the NCAA Tournament field were already seeming bleak.
"I think both teams were trying to find themselves at that particular time and there was a sense of urgency for them and for us," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
FSU would surely find something up there, gutting out a 63-59 win. Then came the 33-point win over No. 3 North Carolina. Later, the win at Duke. All told, Florida State has rattled off eight league wins in nine games starting with the VT victory and the about-face Seminoles (17-7, 8-2 ACC) meet the Hokies (14-11, 3-7 ACC) once again on Thursday night. Tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
"You lose at home to Princeton, then you lose on the road in very embarrassing fashion to Clemson, everyone was kind of walking on pins and needles around here," senior point guard Luke Loucks said. "We all didn't like the direction we were heading and we knew that going into Blacksburg that it was a great opportunity to get a road win and get this season turned around. We went up and did that, and looking back at the weeks following that, we played a pretty good brand of basketball.
"We've kind of recognized that we changed the way the season was heading and we're heading in the right direction now."
Almost unfathomable just five weeks ago when these two teams played last, Florida State now sits atop the ACC and controls its own destiny to win the regular-season conference title. The numbers back up the wins; FSU is second in the ACC in scoring margin (+7.5) and first in field goal percentage (.458) during ACC play entering Thursday's game.
But the Seminoles have little wiggle room on that perch after a loss at lowly Boston College last week. They are tied with Duke and North Carolina at 8-2 in the league.
"Boston College is still lingering in our spirits. I don't think that we're going to get to far ahead of ourselves at this point," said Hamilton, whose team bounced back from the BC loss with a 64-59 win over Miami at home on Saturday. "No one wants to go back and go through that again. I feel comfortable that will be fresh in our minds."
Virginia Tech is 3-7 in league play overall and just 1-4 on the road, but its road win was at Virginia and the Hokies have won two of their last three games.