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February 20, 2008Florida State wasn't seeking revenge Tuesday night against Clemson, a team that capitalized on two incredible plays down the stretch to claim an improbably double-overtime victory against the Seminoles back in mid-January.
Instead, FSU was more interested in redemption after collapsing last week in an uninspired home loss to Wake Forest. The Seminoles were embarrassed that night on their own floor, trailing by more than 20 points in the first half and watching nearly the entire crowd leave the building during the final minutes.
Few would leave early on this night.
The Seminoles played perhaps their most complete half of basketball this season to take a 35-17 lead at intermission and then thwarted a late rally to secure a 64-55 win against a Clemson team that entered the game with the third-best record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"For a team that has dealt with a lot of adversity and really gave a lackluster effort the last home game," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said, "I thought that they wanted to come back and show we were not that team that played Wake Forest the other night."
That was evident from the early going. As has been the case more often than not, Toney Douglas and Jason Rich shouldered most of the scoring load for Florida State, scoring 23 and 22 points respectively.
But where Florida State shined Tuesday was with its team defense and rebounding. The Seminoles (15-12, 4-8 ACC) held Clemson to 30.8 percent shooting from the field and 11.1 percent (3-for-27) from 3-point range. Clemson's starting guards, Cliff Hammonds and K.C. Rivers, combined to make only 2 of 16 3-point attempts. And starting forwards Sam Perry and James Mays were practically non-factors, combining to score one point on 0-for-12 shooting.
"Defensively, I thought that Uche [Echefu] and Ryan [Reid] and Matt [Zitani] and Julian [Vaughn] did a very good job defending the interior against a very good Clemson team that's kind of been having their way with a lot of people," Hamilton said.
And despite a size advantage inside for the Tigers (19-7, 7-5), FSU out-rebounded Clemson 44-38.
Clemson made the game interesting in the second half by going to a half-court trapping defense to force the ball out of the hands of Douglas and Rich. But the closest the Tigers would get was within four points at 47-43 with 4:39 remaining. Rich quickly answered with a driving layup, and he and Douglas combined to score the next six points to extend FSU's lead back to double-digits.
"We just had to be confident and make plays," Hamilton said. "And I thought Jason did a good job of that ? he as well as Toney ? attacking and breaking the press."
Said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell: "We just didn't have enough gas to come back. We got too far down. I thought we had much more energy and effort in the second half. But when you get down 18 on the road in this league, it's awfully difficult to get back. They controlled the game in the first half. Douglas was awfully good. Rich was awfully good. We really couldn't guard them."
"In the second half, we tried to take their guards out of it by trapping them and getting the ball out of their hands and making other people make plays. It was quite successful for us, but you've still got to make shots [on offense]."
Despite improving to only 4-8 in league play, the Seminoles insist they haven't given up on their dreams of an NCAA tournament berth. With four games remaining, they would have to win out to finish at .500 in conference play.
Hamilton admits it may only be a "mathematical" chance, but it's a chance nonetheless.
"We've had enough things bank in and carom off things ... who knows?" Hamilton said. "Maybe we might get one of those things to happen for us. If miracles have been performed against us, maybe we can perform us a miracle."
FSU's miracle quest will begin Saturday at home against Boston College. The Seminoles then will play at N.C. State and North Carolina before returning home against Miami.
Swann watch continues
Senior shooting guard Isaiah Swann took part in some light drills before Tuesday's game, but Hamilton said Swann still has no imminent plans to return early from his torn ACL. Hamilton did say that Swann will be evaluated again by doctors next week.
Ira Schoffel is general manager of the Osceola, the only newspaper devoted exclusively to covering Florida State athletics. For more than 25 years, the Osceola has provided its loyal readers with an insider's perspective of Seminole sports, from behind-the-scenes features to exclusive commentaries, color photo galleries and more. The Osceola publishes weekly during football season and regularly through the winter and spring schedules. And each issue is available online for subscribers within hours of publication. Click here to for more information or to start your subscription.
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