Veteran Seminoles finally in sync after slow start
Florida St. is ranked No. 23 after beating North Carolina and Duke last week
Luke Loucks has 30 points, 24 assists and 6 steals in FSU's last four games
FSU goes after its fifth straight ACC win Wednesday night at Wake Forest
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida State's midseason turnaround can directly be tied to Luke Loucks' emergence at point guard.
The Seminoles went halfway through the season before beating a ranked team. Then they knocked off two in a week - North Carolina and Duke no less - and now find themselves ranked No. 23.
Coach Leonard Hamilton is counting on his veteran team to handle a bit of prosperity better this time around.
"We've been here (poll) before and didn't handle it correctly," Hamilton said Monday. "I'm more concerned about where we are in March."
One of the league's top playmakers, Loucks has filled up the stat sheet with 30 points, 24 assists and 6 steals during Florida State's four-game winning streak that has lifted the Seminoles into a first place tie in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A former high school quarterback, Loucks zipped a pass to Michael Snaer for the buzzer-beating shot Saturday at Duke.
"That's what coach Ham recruited me here to do, to be a distributor, run the team and make the right decisions," Loucks said. "You don't have to impress anyone, just make the right play."
It wasn't' always like that for Loucks, who tried earlier in his career to impress with flashy no-look or behind-the back passes that often went awry.
"I learned real quick that those plays usually landed me on the bench," he said.
The Seminoles (13-6, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) fell to 9-6 after a 20-point loss at Clemson in their ACC opener - that apparently snapped them out of their early season malaise.
The early struggles were virtually inexplicable for a team that went deep into last year's tournament had nine key players back.
"We needed to start playing better and we have," said Deividas Dulkys, whose career-high 32 points led the 90-57 rout of North Carolina. "Now we've got to keep it up."
Roads wins at Virginia Tech and Duke sandwiched around the 33-point clobbering of North Carolina and 84-70 win over Maryland at home have Florida State in a three-way tie for first with Duke and North Carolina State in the ACC.
The normally defensively-geared Seminoles have averaged 83.3 points in the wins of Duke, Maryland and North Carolina with the scoring spread out among several.
Point guard was a position that had Hamilton worried enough before the season to recruit Arkansas transfer Jeff Peterson for help. Peterson was immediately eligible under NCAA rules since he had already earned his degree.
The 6-4 Loucks, who carries the team's highest grade point average and like Peterson is in graduate school, kept the starting job and simultaneously emerged as the Seminole leader.
"He has accepted the role of running the team and being a little more vocal and understanding what we need," Hamilton said. "He's been using his basketball instincts to adjust (and) we're more in sync as a result."
Sophomore Ian Miller has also made contributed in a big way since regaining his eligibility at the start of the second semester, averaging 11.8 points in ACC play.
"Ian has exceeded all of my expectations (and) I don't think he's scratched the surface," Hamilton said. "On the offensive end, the game comes easy to him."
Florida State goes after its fifth straight ACC win Wednesday night at Wake Forest.
"We've got to keep stacking these wins on top of each other for it to mean anything," Loucks said. "We have to keep doing the small things that got us to this point."
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