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March 14, 2009

FSU takes down No. 1 North Carolina

Warchant.com's ACC Tournament Central

ATLANTA - Continuing its rewrite of the school's basketball history, Florida State toppled No. 1 North Carolina 73-70 Saturday, good for its first trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game.

Toney Douglas scored 27 points, including the tying and go-ahead free throws with 47 seconds remaining. Derwin Kitchen followed with a pair of free throws, following a Tyler Hansbrough turnover, to all but seal the victory.

The Seminoles (25-8) erupted in celebration on the Georgia Dome floor when last-gap, 3-point attempts by Wayne Ellington and Danny Green were off the mark.

"I was so happy," said Douglas. "We are playing in the championship game and we beat the No. 1 team in the country. It was a war out there, it wasn't going to be easy, but we played the whole 40 minutes and came out with a win. We made a mark that can't be erased."

Florida State will meet Duke, a 67-61 winner over Maryland, Sunday at 1 p.m. (ESPN) for the title.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton was especially happy for his seniors, who snapped a 10-game losing streak against the Tar Heels.

"It means an awful lot for my seniors because they've been such great leaders this year," Hamilton said. "I'm happy for them and I'm happy for our program. We've been close so many times before."

Just like the Jan. 28 meeting between the teams - an 80-77 victory by the Tar Heels in Tallahassee - this one came down to the final shot. Only Ty Lawson, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer was the difference in the first meeting, wasn't on the floor. Lawson sat out his second consecutive tournament game with a toe injury.

Ellington, who led the Tar Heels with 24 points, and Green, however, could not deliver a repeat of Lawson's heroics.

"We did a great job getting the stops we needed to get the win," senior forward Uche Echefu said. "That is ultimately what matters at the end of the game."

The Seminoles shook off a dismal stretch of shooting early in the game, missing 16 of 17 shots after bolting to a 6-0 lead. North Carolina also struggled early, until Hansbrough got going on the inside with his first basket, good for a 30-21 lead.

Florida State closed the period on an 8-2 run to pull within 32-29 at the half. Douglas contributed a 3-pointer and a jumper, but failed to convert a free throw for a three-point play. The 'Noles chased down the rebound and Derwin Kitchen's driving layup gave FSU momentum heading into the locker room.

Douglas, who scored 16 second half points, wasn't the only big contributor. Solomon Alabi and Kitchen finished with 11 points apiece and Deividas Dulkys chipped in three 3-pointers after coming off the bench.

The Tar Heels (28-4) put up a battle behind the shooting of Ellington and Hansbrough's consistency at the free throw line, where he scored 12 of his 22, but could not muster enough defense to deny the Seminoles. FSU shot nearly 67 percent from the floor in the second half and came up with enough plays at both ends to set up a third showdown with the Blue Devils this season.

Now the focus turns to adding one more first in another long line of them this season - cutting down the nets for the ACC championship.

"We are trying to make a change," junior forward Ryan Reid said. "We want people to look back on this team a couple years from now and say that this team really got it done. At the same time, it is just another game for us. We are going to go real hard and see how it plays out."


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