Leonard Hamilton's post-game press conferenceClick Photos from FSU's 72-70 loss to UNCHere to view this Link.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As far as heartbreaking losses go, this could rank among the biggest in Florida State history.
After Florida State stormed back from seven points down in the final four minutes to take a one-point lead over No. 13 North Carolina, Harrison Barnes nailed a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining to lift the Tar Heels to a dramatic 72-70 win Wednesday night in front of a near sold-out crowd on Senior Night at the Donald Tucker Civic Center.
It was the fifth time this season that Barnes, a freshman, has made a go-ahead or game-winning shot and the second time in a row North Carolina has beaten Florida State on a shot in the final seconds in Tallahassee - Ty Lawson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Tar Heels to a 80-77 victory in 2009.
"Not many freshman will take a 25-footer with the clock rolling down and make it," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "You got to take your hat off to him."
What makes Barnes' clutch shot sting even more is that FSU would have locked up an NCAA Tournament bid with a win. Instead, the 'Noles will now have to win on the road to feel completely safe on Selection Sunday. Their next and final regular-season game is at N.C. State on Sunday night. The Seminoles beat the Wolfpack 84-71 at home on Sunday night.
"We can't have a pity party. We got one game left on the road and it's very important to our basketball team," Hamilton said.
FSU, playing without star forward Chris Singleton (fractured foot) for the fourth straight game, produced arguably its best all-around effort of the season. All 10 players who saw action scored and the FSU bench combined for 27 points (UNC's had 12). Derwin Kitchen, the lone scholarship senior on the squad, led the way with 13 points in his final home game.
With a healthy Singleton, FSU was beaten 89-69 in Chapel Hill on Feb. 6.
"Chris is an incredible player, but I think they have all banded together," UNC coach Roy Williams said of the Seminoles. "One guy says I'm going to have to play a little bit better and the next guys says I'm going to have to play a little bit better. They have had a lot of guys step up."
When Kendall Marshall drained a 3-pointer to put the Tar Heels up 67-60 with 3:56 left, a number of FSU players took turns chipping away at the deficit.
Big man Bernard James blocked Dexter Strickland's layup attempt and on the ensuing possession took a feed from Deividas Dulkys and threw down a powerful two-handed slam.
After a shot clock violation wiped out a possible 3-point play for Okaro White (the officials met and ruled that the buzzer sounded before White touched the ball and headed down court), Dulkys followed with a 3-pointer to cut the UNC lead to 67-66 with 1:55 left. Two Dexter Strickland free throws put UNC back up by three, and, fittingly, Kitchen took over from there.
Kitchen drove to his right and lofted up a floater in traffic that soared over two defenders' hands, kissed off the glass and fell through the hoop with 50 seconds left. Michael Snaer then made a steal, and after a timeout, Kitchen drove to his right again, drew a foul off Marshall and calmly sank two free throws to put FSU up 70-69 with 18 seconds to go.
After a UNC timeout, the left-handed Marshall drove into the lane and had his layup attempt swatted out of bounds behind the basket by James. That set up Barnes' heroics. The 6-7 Barnes, who was being defended by the 6-5 Snaer, took a pass about 10 feet outside the top of the arc, took two dribbles ahead and fired up a shot that swished through the hoop.
Kitchen took the inbounds pass and raced to the right side of the half court line where he let a prayer fly that nearly went in, hitting the backboard and the rim. But, Kitchen was ruled out of bounds, so the shot would not have counted.
"When you are caught in that situation like that it's hard to decide what to do," Snaer said. "I should have forced him to drive. He took what I gave him and I just gave him the wrong thing. I made the worst possible decision at the worst possible time."
Hamilton and James both defended Snaer.
"I was dumbfounded when I saw the shot go in. I couldn't believe it," James said. "Michael was a little down about it, but he played his butt off. You are always taught not to jump on the last shot anyways and if he plays too close he might get a foul. (Barnes) just made an amazing shot."
"I just think it was a great play," Hamilton said. "I thought Michael did a very good job of contesting it. That was about as well as you can contest it without blocking it. (The shot) was about as good as it gets."
The first half was fast-paced and especially competitive, featuring nine ties and nine different lead changes. Both teams shot 16-of-31 (51 percent) from the floor.
UNC picked up its sixth foul with more than eight minutes remaining (putting FSU one away from entering the bonus round), but the Seminoles were never able to take advantage as the Tar Heels weren't called for another foul until the second half.
Xavier Gibson threw down perhaps the best dunk of any FSU player this season when he took a pass on the baseline in the second half, made one dribble and elevated for an emphatic one-handed slam over the top of Henson. Gibson looked his best since returning from knee and hand injuries seven games ago, contributing six points, three rebounds and a block in 14 minutes of play.
Official attendance was 12,030 (the Civic Center holds 12,100). Much of the crowd showed up late as there were thousands of empty seats at tip off.
UNC outrebounded FSU 39-28.
Double technical fouls were called on Henson and Dulkys after both were jabbering at each other with 7:58 left in the second half after Henson drew a foul with Dulkys trying to tie him up for a jump ball.
Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher and his wife, Candi, attended the game.
FSU also honored two walk-on seniors, Andrew Rutledge and A.J. Yawn in a pre-game ceremony. Rutledge, Yawn and Kitchen each received frame jerseys.