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January 13, 2009

Pair of FSU runs sinks Wolfpack

RALEIGH - The Florida State men's basketball team went on a pair of devastating runs with NC State unable to respond to the latter one.

Florida State stunned NC State with a 19-2 run to close out a 78-65 victory Tuesday at the RBC Center that left the Wolfpack 0-2 in the ACC and 9-5 overall. Florida State improved to 14-3 overall and 1-1 in the ACC.

NC State last held the lead, 63-59, with 6:13 left in the game, but then it turned ugly for the Wolfpack. NC State went 1 for 10 from the field, and the Pack missed the front end of two one-and-one free throw attempts.

NC State coach Sidney Lowe turned to his youthful bench to keep the Wolfpack afloat with three of his starters scoring a combined five points.

"You hope that guys can get it done," Lowe said about his veteran players. "It's just the way it is, fair or unfair. Every team has a couple of guys that need to play well for them to win. You have to, and we are no different. We have certain guys that have to play well to win certain ball games."

Florida State went on a 24-4 run in the first half to claw out of a 12-4 hole to take a 28-16 lead, shocking NC State in the process. NC State recovered with a 16-7 run of its own to close out the first half, but the Wolfpack still trailed 35-32 at halftime.

The unlikely NC State trio of true freshmen Julius Mays and C.J. Williams, and redshirt freshman Johnny Thomas, helped lead the charge in the second half.

The three players combined for 10 "Did not play - coach's decision" this season, but came together to all post career-highs in points, and both Mays and Thomas equaled or surpassed their career highs in minutes played.

Mays and Thomas scored 11 of the Pack's last 13 points of the game. Thomas scored a pair of baskets to give NC State a 58-57 lead with 7:50 left in the game, and Mays finished a three-point play and a mid-range jumper to push the lead to 63-59 with 6:13 remaining.

From that point on, it was all Seminoles, who went on a debilitating 19-2 run to close out the game. Senior center Ben McCauley scored the only basket during the stretch with 1:23 left to cut the lead to 71-65, but Florida State had the momentum and the lead.

Mays finished with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting in 26 minutes, playing with poise and operating the Wolfpack's high pick-and-roll offensive sets.

"[Mays] played well," Lowe said. "I hate to have him play that long, but you try to stay with who's getting it done. I didn't think the other guys were getting it done."

Williams added eight points in 17 minutes, including five as part of NC State's end of the first half run that helped right the ship. Thomas finished with five points in 18 minutes, tying the most he's played this season.

Some of the Wolfpack starters ended up sitting the bench for long stretches in the second half with the emergence of the freshmen trio, plus junior power forward Dennis Horner, who logged 24 minutes.

"We were trying to win the game," Lowe said. "I told the guys I don't dictate minutes, they do. Those guys did exactly what we needed them to do, so they got the minutes.

"We tried to have our starters finish off the game, but Florida State was able to get the momentum back."

While NC State went through a youth movement of sorts during the game, so did Florida State, though senior point guard Toney Douglas anchored the attack. Douglas scored a game-high 21 points on 8 of 15 shooting, and added two assists and two steals in 35 minutes.

Redshirt freshman center Solomon Alabi, a 7-foot-1 native of Nigeria, and 6-5 shooting guard Deividas Dulkys, who is from Lithunai, came through with some big plays down the stretch for Florida State.

Alabi tied the game at 63 with a basket and then gave Florida State the lead 65-63, which they never surrendered. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 21 minutes of action.

Dulkys' put in an offensive rebound, make a layup and then hit two free throws following Alabi's back-to-back baskets. He finished with a season-high nine points in 21 minutes of action off the bench.

"This was a significant win for our team, on the road, against a good team, coming after a tough loss to Duke at home," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We're a team in transition. I think it's important that we keep winning while we're developing."

NC State returns to action with a home game against Georgia Tech at noon Saturday at the RBC Center. The Yellow Jackets are 9-6 overall and 0-2 in the ACC.


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