No.11 Florida State vs UConn Preview

Florida State vs UConn Preview
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

If you were to ask if the UConn Huskies (7-2) had a chance against this Florida State (7-1) team before the season started, most analysts and experts would have said, “no chance”.

But with new head coach Dan Hurley at the helm, he has reinvigorated this Huskies program and has them competing at an elite level.

Connecticut will look to sustain the momentum their early season success has brought them when they take on 11th-ranked Florida State in the Never Forget Tribute Classic this Saturday.

Just this past week, the Huskies outscored their last opponent, Lafayette, 90-63 at home, where five of their players scored in the double digits. That is the fifth time the team has scored at least 90 points this season.

With their sights set high, UConn is hoping that knocking out a ranked team will prove that they belong in the NCAA tournament. They haven’t made the tournament since 2016 but feel confident that the starting lineup they have this year is capable of being competitive against top teams.

Senior guard Jalen Adams leads the team in scoring with 19.0 points per game and is the leader of this somewhat inexperienced ball club.

The return of sophomore Alterique Gilbert has been key to the offensive success, despite his lack of scoring. Gilbert, whose previous two seasons ended early due to a shoulder injury requiring surgery, is back and finally healthy–he scored 2 points against Lafayette but had a career-high 11 assists and zero turnovers.

Sophomore starting forward Tyler Polley, who had 16 points last game, had high praises for Alterique.

“When he plays like that, it’s hard to beat us. He was doing a great job.” Polley said. “Once he gets all the rust off, man, he’s gonna be scary.”

Gilbert does average 11.3 points per game this season and shoots 40 percent from three-point land.

While UConn seems ready to face their biggest opponent of the season thus far, the Seminoles are just trying to stay focused and improve themselves, according to head coach Leonard Hamilton.

Hamilton, who was in close proximity to myself and Brandon Reid throughout the AdvoCare Invitational, does not say a lot but knows what it takes to lead his team.

“I think we’ve shown that we have potential to be a pretty good team but we still have a lot of room for improvement,” Hamilton said. Later, he added, “We have to learn to adjust to being a highly ranked team and getting everybody’s best effort.”

Despite beating Wednesday’s opponent Troy by 16 points, Florida State turned the ball over 11 times in just one half. The Seminoles will be focusing on moving the ball around more efficiently on offense in order to avoid turnovers and to allow forwards to attack the basket more. Hamilton believes this is where they struggled the most, and consistency is their biggest worry going into the game against UConn.

Four players average double-figures for the Seminoles:

Terance Mann: 11.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists

Mfiondu Kabengele: 11.0 points, 4.4 rebounds

MJ Walker: 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists

Trent Forrest: 10.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists

And FSU is about to get a lot more dangerous. Senior forward Phil Cofer, will make his first appearance of the season.

Last season, Cofer was Florida State’s minutes leader and leading scorer with an average of 12.8 points per game. He has been out since October due to a foot injury, but Cofer has participated in practice for the first time this past week. However, the Seminoles’ coaching staff still doesn’t expect him to play just yet.

“I’m not comfortable that the right thing to do is take him on the road in a hostile environment in a big game,” Hamilton said.

Florida State has not yet played any conference games and believe it is best to wait until for a smaller game where Cofer can play with limited minutes and get his confidence before facing a tough ACC schedule.

Prediction

LINE: -9 FSU

The return of Cofer is key for the Seminoles ACC success, but his return will have little impact on this game. UConn is having a great start to their season and first under Hurley, but they will need a super-human effort to beat this Florida State team.

Florida State 76 UConn 65

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