ATLANTA - Florida State survived a scare from 12th-seeded Georgia Tech, thanks to a clutch three-point play from Derwin Kitchen with 7.7 seconds remaining, in a 64-62 victory that sends the Seminoles to ACC Tournament semifinals for the first time since 1992.
"I was glad to see him step up because we needed someone to make a play," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We practice those end-game situations often for moments such as those."
The Seminoles trailed only twice; after the game's first basket and Yellow Jackets' forward Zach Peacock's baseline turnaround jumper with 29 seconds remaining, 63-62.
Kitchen countered with a go-ahead reverse layup off an inbounds pass from Luke Loucks, then tacked on a free throw after Alade Aminu's foul. The Yellow Jackets' last chance to score their second tournament upset at the Georgia Dome ended when Iman Shumpert's runner bounced off the rim.
The Seminoles rushed the floor in celebration. They will meet No. 1 North Carolina in Saturday's semifinal.
"They were a very determined team and you have to give them a lot of credit," Hamilton said of Georgia Tech. "We feel very fortunate to come away with a victory."
The victory snapped a streak of 11 consecutive quarterfinal losses for the Seminoles.
Senior All-ACC guard Toney Douglas led Florida State (24-8) with 25 points, establishing a school tournament record with 11 field goals. Freshman center Solomon Alabi added 14.
The Seminoles were forced to overcome 19 turnovers, in part because of the Yellow Jackets' trapping defense aimed at keeping the ball out of Douglas' hands.
"We prepared for that press and trap all week but that is the nature of the quality of teams that you have in the ACC," Hamilton said.
Lewis Clinch was nearly more than the Seminoles could handle, matching Douglas for game-high honors with 25 points.
"Tonight we really didn't have an answer for [Clinch]," Hamilton said. "He was releasing it under it quick, he was releasing it under pressure. He was poised; he gave us good shot fakes. … He did not want this game to be his last one."
Gani Lawal and Shumpert added 11 points each for Paul Hewitt's Yellow Jackets (12-19).
The Seminoles will meet top-seeded North Carolina in the tournament for a third consecutive season. The Tar Heels have won 10 consecutive games against the 'Noles, including an 80-77 win in Tallahassee on ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
An injured toe kept Lawson out of the Tar Heels' 79-76 tournament win over Virginia Tech Friday. He is not expected to play against the Seminoles.
"I would think it's unlikely he would play tomorrow but he felt much better today than he did yesterday," UNC coach Roy Williams said.
With or without Lawson, the Heels have plenty of weapons and will be facing a Florida State team 20 hours removed from their opening round game.
"That is part of college basketball," Hamilton said. "It is not going to be any more difficult for us than it is going to be for them. We are both in the same situation. We just have to prepare ourselves mentally. It is going to be more mental than physical."