For FSU, February a bittersweet month

Robinson led Seminoles to 3 league wins despite disciplining 2 starters

ACC notebook

March 01, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

It had not been the smoothest February in Tallahassee for Florida State's Steve Robinson, but it was easily his most successful.

The third-year Seminoles coach guided his team to three victories last month to match the most Atlantic Coast Conference wins by Florida State since 1994, the year it advanced to the NCAA tournament's elite eight.

While few predicted the Seminoles as the ACC's fifth-place team, no one could have scripted how they would climb in the standings.

Florida State (11-14, 6-8 in the ACC) won twice last week, rallying from a 15-point deficit against Georgia Tech, then digging out of a 12-point hole vs. Virginia, despite some lineup shuffling.

The Seminoles' two leading scorers, Damous Anderson (15.8) and Ron Hale (16.4), missed one class the morning after their road game at Duke, when the team didn't make it back to campus until 8: 15 a.m. that day. Robinson didn't want to hear any excuses and decided both players would miss two starts over the next four games.

But who got punished over this, the Seminoles or their opponents?

Anderson racked up 50 points in his two times off the bench, and Hale scored 22 in his first time as a reserve this season. Hale will finish off the stretch by not starting tonight at Maryland.

"Maybe I should have been keeping them on the bench their whole careers," Robinson said Saturday.

And Anderson, who skipped a Latin Politics class, proved he could teach some opposing players about fast-talking rhetoric.

With Florida State holding a 64-62 lead with 1: 28 remaining Saturday, Anderson pulled down an offensive rebound off Hale's missed free throw. He leaped past Virginia's Travis Watson to give Florida State another key possession, which led the Seminoles to a 71-64 upset.

"I was just talking to Watson, taking his mind off it," Anderson said.

"I was talking about the season, telling him he's been having a great year, playing well. He's a freshman."

Growing concern

Duke's top-four seeding in the NCAA tournament will rest on five players.

The Blue Devils (22-4, 13-1) will most likely play the final two regular-season games and the ACC tournament without their only productive reserve, Mike Dunleavy, who has been sidelined for the past week with mononucleosis. With Duke's starters playing all but 23 minutes Saturday, the Blue Devils lost to St. John's, 83-82.

"I thought our team let down a little bit after winning the ACC regular season," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

"We don't have much depth. We were able to camouflage that with the versatility of our players. We don't have that right now and have to adjust to that."

Tailspinning State

By losing seven straight, North Carolina State has extended another dubious streak as well.

The Wolfpack (15-11, 5-10) clinched its ninth consecutive losing ACC season, the longest stretch of futility by any league school since 1980. N.C. State moved past Maryland, which didn't have a winning ACC record from 1986 to 1993.

So has the Wolfpack program made any progress this season?

"It's a difficult question," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said.

"Any way on my part to explain or rationalize the [six-game] losing streak can be perceived as excuses. I'm not inclined to go in that direction."

Fast breaks

Rating Percentage Index watch (through Sunday): Duke (fourth), Maryland (ninth), North Carolina (32nd), N.C. State (65th), Virginia (70th), Wake Forest (72nd), Florida State (104th), Georgia Tech (127th), Clemson (185th). The ACC lost three of its four nonconference games in February, recording its only win when Georgia Tech beat Florida A&M. North Carolina's Joseph Forte is on pace to become the first freshman in school history to lead the Tar Heels in scoring (16.2). Duke has won 18 straight road games. Virginia, which is 8-6 in the ACC, hasn't had a winning season in the league since 1995. Wake Forest's Darius Songaila has scored 20 or more points in four straight games.

Off season

Duke's loss to St. John's on Saturday -- the last nonconference game for the Atlantic Coast Conference this season -- lowered the league's non-ACC record to 77-37 (.675). It's the most out-of-conference losses by the league in 33 years and the fewest wins in 25 years. A look at the ACC's five worst nonconference records since 1984-85, when the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams, and how many league teams received NCAA bids:

Season Rec. Pct. Bids

'99-00 77-37 .675 --

'87-88 93-33 .738 5

'93-94 91-32 .740 5

'95-96 79-27 .745 6

'98-99 107-30 .781 3

'97-98 106-29 .785 5

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