With Duke's loss at Clemson earlier in the week and Florida State's win over Virginia the next night, the Seminoles moved into a three-way tie at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings going into Saturday's game against Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.
The ninth-ranked Seminoles (15-2, 5-1 ACC) will carry an eight-game winning streak into the contest against the Hurricanes (10-6, 2-4), who have lost three of their last four outings since an overtime win at Clemson on New Year's Eve.
Miami's only win in January so far was a 66-58 home win over a Pittsburgh team that handed the Seminoles their only league loss in an early conference opener in November.
The Hurricanes struggled in their last outing, an 80-63 rout at North Carolina State, as they contend with the same issue they had last season: lack of depth up front. With injuries sidelining backup forwards Deng Gak and Florida transfer Keith Stone, the Hurricanes are left with only 7-foot redshirt junior Rodney Miller and 6-10 forward Sam Waardenburg to battle inside.
"We're not a very good defensive team and haven't been all year long," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said after forward D.J. Funderburk had 19 points and eight rebounds and forward Jerricole Hellems added 11 off the bench for the Wolfpack. "When our big guys get in foul trouble, we've got no resistance at the rim."
The Pack outscored Miami 36-28 in the paint and got 26 points from its bench to eight for the Hurricanes.
"When our two big guys get in foul trouble and without Keith Stone or Deng Gak," Larranaga said, "we just don't have any depth to be able to match up with bigs."
The Seminoles, who haven't lost since an 80-64 setback at Indiana in early December, are coming off a grind-it-out, 54-50 win over Virginia. They held the Cavaliers to just 3-of-15 shooting from 3-point range and forced them into an uncustomary 18 turnovers.
"Some people will say this was not a very pretty game," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It's beautiful to me."
The Seminoles got nice production from their leading scorer with sophomore guard Devin Vassell scoring a career-high 18 points, and sophomore guard Anthony Polite also scored a career high with 14 points, just a point short of matching his output for the last three games combined. Polite hit all four of his 3-point attempts, including one with 2:27 left that tied the game at 47-47.
"Anthony exudes confidence," Hamilton said. "A lot of the mindset, the starry look in his eyes as a freshman, seems to be leaving him. He's comfortable. He's a Seminole through and through. He's unselfish. He plays hard every possession.
"He spends a lot of time in the gym getting shots up, and, when he shoots the ball, I think everyone who sees him, when you look at him, you see a lot of confidence."
The game will be the first of two meetings between the two in-state rivals in the regular season with the rematch Feb. 8 in Tallahassee.
--Field Level Media