The Florida State men's basketball team wanted to make its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1998 a certainty. The Seminoles' 73-66 win over No. 12 Clemson, buoyed by ACC Player of the Year candidate Toney Douglas' 23 points, put them in a good position.
"We are just playing for a higher seed in the ACC Tournament," Douglas said after the victory. "We already know we are going to the NCAA Tournament."
While Leonard Hamilton may not want his star player discussing the No.
23 Seminoles' hopes of ending their tournament drought, Douglas got some support from Clemson's Oliver Purnell.
"Personally, and I'm not on the committee, but I thought they were in before this game," Purnell said. "It's been very good. They have all the pieces for a good team, they've got size, they got shooting, they got a great guard. They are very good."
The victory marked the first time the Seminoles have swept the Tigers since the 2000-01 season.
What looked like it was going to be an easy double-digit FSU win became increasingly close down the stretch. After going up 51-33 with 15:46 remaining on a three-pointer by Douglas, the Tigers (22-6, 8-6
ACC) got it down to three points when Raymond Sykes hit a lay-up with
3:29 remaining in the game.
"Clemson is a very difficult team to prepare for because they put pressure on you all the time," Hamilton said. "It started to wear on us. We couldn't get it across half court and they were able to cut down the lead and put the game in doubt in the late stages in the game."
Sykes, who was fouled by Jordan Demercy on the play, missed the free throw but the Tigers retained possession. Tanner Smith missed a three-point attempt on the next possession that would have tied the game.
The Seminoles would make a last stand though, behind four free throws from Douglas and two blocks from their 7-foot-1 center Solomon Alabi, the Seminoles went on a 7-0 run to again stretch the lead to 10 points with just 41 seconds remaining.
"We just had to keep our composure," Douglas said. "I wasn't getting nervous. I was just trying to get the ball. … Honestly I am exhausted, I am tired, and I probably would have cried if we would have lost that game because we played so hard and played so good especially on the defensive end."
Douglas would add two more free throws down the stretch to seal the victory for the Seminoles.
"We deserved that win," Douglas added.
Joining Douglas in double figures for the Seminoles (22-7, 9-5 ACC) was Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen with 10 points each.
Clemson was led by K.C. Rivers 17 points. Trevor Booker, who scored 29 points against the Seminoles in their last meeting, was held to just eight points.
The Seminoles led 39-27 at the half behind 10 first half points by Douglas. They were able to pull out to a 14-point advantage early on thanks to a 25-7 run in the first half.
Both teams were hampered with turnover issues, as the Tigers committed
23 turnovers on the afternoon compared to 16 turnovers by the Seminoles.
Florida State will look to reach 10 conference victories when they travel to face Duke on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.
At halftime, Florida State retired the No. 33 jersey worn by Ron King. King helped lead the Seminoles to the 1972 national title game and still holds the school's single-game scoring record of 46 points.