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Singleton’s return sparks Seminoles

Eric Prister | Saturday, March 19, 2011

CHICAGO — Coming into their third-round matchup against second-seeded Notre Dame, the No. 10-seeded Seminoles have their focus set on playing outstanding defense — something Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has stressed since he was hired in Tallahassee.

“We’ve been consistent over the last 15 years with our defensive philosophy,” he said. “And we try to take it as simple for our players to understand as possible. We have principles that govern what we do and how we can be — how consistent we need to be with the things that are not necessarily geared towards your talents, your speeds, your athleticism. We just try to be sound with our principles and be consistent with our stance and how we see the man and the ball.”

The Seminoles are 33rd in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 61.9 points per game. Junior forward Bernard James said that defensive mentality is instilled in the Florida State players right from the start.

“When I got there, it was instant for me,” James said. “The first practice, I saw how hard everyone played defense. There’s no slacking. Just from a basketball player’s perspective, you never want to be the weak link. So just the way the coaches have set everyone’s mindset here, new players come in, and automatically you know you’ve got to play defense here.”

Florida State will likely have their hands full with the Irish, who enter the contest scoring 75.8 points per game this season. Hamilton said Notre Dame’s versatility is what makes them so dangerous.

“They present an awful lot of problems for teams, especially us, because they have such a diverse offensive system that challenges all your defensive principles, running a motion offense where one of the inside players initiates the offense and brings the ball down the floor,” Hamilton said. “They’re shooting 39 percent from the perimeter from three.

“They don’t turn the ball over but 11 times a game. They’re a team that’s very sound fundamentally. They know who they are. They execute the offense completely within themselves every time down the floor.”

The return of junior forward Chris Singleton from injury in Florida State’s opening-round victory over Texas A&M provided a defensive boost for the Seminoles, as Singleton is considered their top defender.

“When [Singleton] checked in, I got a really big surge of energy, just kind of got my second wind; I think the rest of the team [did] as well,” James said. “Just our spirits went through the roof when he checked in.”

Singleton and the Seminoles will tip-off against the Irish Sunday at 9:40 p.m. in the United Center.