Winning the first time is often hard enough.
Beating a team twice in the same season can be even harder.
The Florida State men's basketball team will have that in mind Thursday when they square off with Virginia Tech at the Civic Center in what will be the first of five ACC rematches the Seminoles play this season.
The No. 21 Seminoles beat the Hokies on Jan. 10 in a 63-59 triumph in Blacksburg that started a seven-game winning streak that put a rocky December in the rearview mirror and vaulted FSU to the top of the ACC standings.
The two teams have gone in opposite directions since that meeting – FSU (17-7, 8-2 ACC) has won eight of its last nine games while Virginia Tech (14-11, 3-7) has lost six of its last eight and eight of its last 10. But rather than see a sinking ACC foe, the Seminoles say they remember a team that pushed them to the brink in their first meeting.
“It wasn't like we blew out a bad Virginia Tech team,” senior guard Luke Loucks said. “This team's a good team. Their record doesn't quite show how good they are … they stuck with us for about 38 minutes.”
FSU gained national notoriety a few days later via a 33-point blowout of North Carolina. But their escape from Blacksburg is what Loucks said turned around the season.
“After that win, we kind of changed as a team and really came together and kind of unified,” he said. “We've been playing much more team basketball since we were in Blacksburg.”
That doesn't mean they expect that win to have much relevance come tip-off tonight. Both Loucks and fellow senior Deividas Dulkys said that the familiarity that comes from playing a team once already requires more preparation and, often, a different approach.
Things that worked before might not be so successful the second time around.
“It's a lot of different adjustments that coaches have to make,” Dulkys said, “and we've got to know what we have to do to get to where we've capable of.”
But, Loucks conceded, that can also work in FSU's favor.
“They know everything you're doing this year and they know how the game went last year,” he said. “But it can kind of be turned around, vice versa. We know everything they've done since then, and we know how they played against us.”