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March 1, 2012

FSU hoping to shore up 3-point defense vs. UVA

After two straight losses, games in which the opposition crippled Florida State from 3-point range, Seminoles guard Deividas Dulkys doesn't expect the objective to change for Virginia tonight.

Duke and Miami shot a combined 22-of-46 (47.8 percent) from behind the arc the past two games as Florida State, a program built on defense, allowed a combined 150 points.

"I would," Dulkys said when asked if teams will continue to emphasize the perimeter game against FSU. "Everybody does their scouting reports and they look for weaknesses and that's been our weakness, so I would assume they would try to do that."

Losers of consecutive ACC games for the first time in two seasons, Florida State (19-9, 10-4 ACC) will try and lock back down defensively against the Cavaliers (21-7, 8-6 ACC) in Charlottesville, Va. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.

"That's what makes basketball so exciting, you don't know when you're going to run into a team that's capable of doing that. We've gotten it two straight games," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "But that's what happens this time of year, that's the beginning of March Madness

"What we have to do is match that level of focus in different areas. We can't go out and knock all three's down, but we need to be sharp with our defense, with our execution and I feel that's where we've come up short the last two games."

The Seminoles fell victim to 13 Duke 3-pointers last week, then Miami followed suit, going 9-of-20 from deep. While some of that is catching a team on the wrong night - Miami had five different players hit three's, for example - the Seminoles have also struggled to stop dribble penetration towards the rim, which has left FSU susceptible to open jump shooters around the arc.

"We've got to know our principals and guard the ball," Dulkys said. "We can't get beat off the dribble that easy and cause that much help. It's going to be our main emphasis in practice, not get beat and play 1-on-1 defense as best we can."

Florida State has seen its 3-point field goal defense rise from 29.3 percent to 30.4 percent over the past two games, a sizable jump in such a short time. Even still, FSU ranks third in the ACC in 3-point percentage defense and leads the conference on overall field goal percentage defense.

"We didn't have the inside-outside balance against Duke and I didn't feel we executed as well against Miami," said Hamilton, who also cited offensive efficiency as issues in both losses. "I'm sure (teams) have made their mind up that if they were going to beat us, they were going to have to beat us from the perimeter. What we've got to do is understand that each team is going to have a game plan."

With two games left in the regular season, the Seminoles can cement the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament with a win tonight or at home against Clemson on Sunday. Even with two losses, the Seminoles can do no worse than the No. 4 seed, which is still guaranteed a first-round bye. But the focus on the end of the season is about momentum and confidence, something the Seminoles can regain with a strong finish.

It will have to come against a defensively like-minded UVA team, which will host its Senior Night tonight. UVA also leads the ACC in scoring defense, allowing a measly 52.2 points per game. The Seminoles beat the Cavaliers 58-55 at home earlier this season.

Despite the struggles of the past two games, Hamilton hopes his team can get back on stable footing.

"(UVA) understands us and we understand them," Hamilton said. "They're going to be prepared and we're going to be prepared, we've just got to find a way to have an edge. Teams can find a way to have an emotional edge for one reason or another. We've just got to not let their senior night, their last home game energize them more than the fact we want to win our 11th game of the year and continue to bring some momentum at the end of the season."



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