In a game with 20 lead changes, Florida State's 19-2 finishing run closed out at a 78-65 victory at North Carolina State Tuesday night at the RBC Center.
Back-to-back baskets by redshirt freshman center Solomon Alabi and six consecutive points by freshman guard Deividas Dulkys keyed a 12-0 run which enabled the Seminoles (14-3, 1-1) to even their Atlantic Coast Conference record with a rare road win.
"It was a big one for us," Dulkys said. "We knew we lost one at home to Duke so we had to come back and steal one on the road. Everybody was just focused and we did what we had to do."
Leonard Hamilton was most impressed by the collective contributions of his team. Senior guard Toney Douglas led the way with 21 points, with senior forward Uche Echefu and Alabi contributing 12 each.
"It was a team effort tonight and a significant win for us," Hamilton said. "I thought we maintained our poise."
That's no small feat when you consider six 'Noles were playing their first league road game.
The Seminoles allowed only one field goal after N.C. State's Julius Mays' jumper with 6:13 remaining gave the Wolfpack a 63-59 lead. FSU scored the next 12 points for a lead they refused to relinquish.
Hamilton had to sweat out some early struggles in order to see his new starting lineup - with Derwin Kitchen and Echefu replacing Jordan DeMercy and Ryan Reid - pay off. Echefu delivered his first double-double of the season with 11 rebounds to go along with a dozen points. Kitchen added nine points and a team-leading three assists in a season-high 29 minutes.
"We have been missing Uche's contribution," Hamilton said of the changes. . "We needed that. We kind of changed the lineup a bit just because (Uche) is kind of rounding into shape. Kitchen I thought gave us some points we haven't been getting."
Out of the gate it didn't appear as though the change was going to pay off. Forward Brandon Costner scored seven early points as the Wolfpack opening a 12-4 lead. The Seminoles, however, demonstrated their resilience by countering with a 12-0 spurt to start 24-4 surge.
Much to Hamilton's chagrin, his team failed to maintain the double-digit cushion as the Wolfpack closed within 35-32 at the half.
"I thought we lost our composure," Hamilton said. "We had played excellent defense and held them scoreless for nine minutes but we gave them like 14 or 15 points in that three minute period. That shows that we are still growing up and have a lot more to learn."
Two quick baskets to start the second half gave the Wolfpack (9-5,0-2) a temporary advantage as the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes. There were 20 lead changes in the game before the 'Noles put together their dominating stretch run.
"I thought we had a lot of team chemistry and played together out there. We moved the ball around and got it inside to Solomon," Douglas said. "We got a lot of points in transition. We played good defense and we rebounded the ball. All those things together, allows you to win on the road. We played a full 40 minutes."
The Seminoles forced 16 turnovers on the evening, including 12 steals, and claimed a claimed a 35-28 rebounding advantage.
Florida State returns home to face Maryland Saturday at noon.