TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State has stumbled out of the gate in the first two weeks of Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The Seminoles went 10-2 in non-conference games, which was their best start since 2010-11. But for the second straight season they have lost three of their first four in the ACC. Things don't get easier as Florida State faces three ranked teams in a seven-day span starting Sunday when it hosts No. 13 Virginia.
With four freshmen and a junior college transfer, coach Leonard Hamilton expected his team's inexperience to become more evident. But he has started to see signs that his team might be turning the corner after Wednesday's 85-78 victory at North Carolina State
''It's hard when you are dealing with guys who have not been there and done it but they are growing and learning,'' Hamilton said. ''Sometimes it is hard to understand how hard it is to play and how difficult the challenge is until you get to conference play. I think they are getting that now.''
Malik Beasley (17.1 points per game) and Dwayne Bacon (16.6) continue to be first and second in the ACC in scoring among freshmen but they have had to adjust to opponents who have scouted every tendency. Bacon, a 6-foot-7 guard, is averaging 13.3 points in conference games and has been plagued by slow starts. He is averaging only 3.0 points in the first half and is 4 of 24 from the field.
Beasley, a 6-5 guard, is averaging 18.3 points in conference and has led the Seminoles in scoring in three of the past four games. Two of his seven 20-point games this season have come in conference play but in two games he has been held to fewer than five points the first 20 minutes.
''People are gearing their defenses to take certain things away. That's why we can't put the burden on them to produce at an experienced player's rate,'' Hamilton said.
Some bright spots in conference play have come from the bench. Devon Bookert is averaging 11.4 points in the past five games and is 15 of 27 from 3-point range. He made all four of his attempts beyond the arc en route to 21 points in the win at NC State. Benji Bell hasn't provided much in terms of scoring but he has provided more depth at point guard when Hamilton wants Xavier Rathan-Mayes to move to shooting guard.
Florida State has lost five straight and 10 of its last 11 against ranked teams. It also has a five-game losing streak against Virginia.
The Cavaliers (13-3, 2-2) have dropped two of their last three but are coming off a 66-58 win over Miami on Tuesday. Virginia figures to be the toughest defensive test that Florida State has faced to date. The Cavaliers are 10th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 60.7 points per game.
Going into Sunday's game, Hamilton has stressed taking the best and highest-percentage shot.
''We've got to be really patient because they are going to bait you into taking uncontested 3s,'' Rathan-Mayes said, ''Sometimes the best thing, especially in a half-court offense, is reversing it one or two more times to get the best look.''