ATLANTA - There has been talk in Tallahassee about contending for championships and challenging the old guard of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
On Friday night, Florida State matched the chatter with a cagey performance, looking like a program that's ready to make moves. Holding the lead throughout the second half and icing the game with stellar free throw shooting, the Seminoles held off the pesky Miami Hurricanes 82-71 at Philips Arena in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
The Seminoles (22-9) will take on No. 2 seed Duke at 3 p.m. ET today in the ACC semifinals Florida State's first trip to the conference semis since 2009.
Florida State took its first lead at 12-9 and never gave it back, controlling a Miami squad motivated by its uneasy seat on the NCAA Tournament bubble. And as the Hurricanes (19-12) pushed back throughout the second half, the Seminoles had answers. Through the final 30 minutes of the contest, Miami would cut FSU's lead to one possession six different times. And all six times, the Seminoles responded with a basket to extend the lead once again.
"I thought in the second half they were playing more aggressive than us and went on that run, everyone just came together and said 'We're not letting this happen,'" guard Luke Loucks said. "We not only have to match their aggressiveness, but exceed it, and I think we really did that in closing the game.
The Hurricanes' final stand came with 4:10 to play as Kenny Jadji's jumper made it 62-59. Then came an 8-0 run from the Seminoles over the next 2:05 - points produced by four different players - that gave FSU a 70-59 lead and effectively put the game out of reach.
"I thought we maintained our poise, we didn't get rattled," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Once we settled down, I thought we regrouped, regained our focus, executed a lot better, made some baskets and got some stops."
"I thought we gave ourselves a chance in the second half when we cut the lead to 62-59, and Florida State stepped it up and we were not able to finish as well as we would have liked," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "A lot of credit goes to them. They played a terrific game from start to finish."
Florida State gave Miami no extra chances, either, netting 16 of 18 free throw attempts in the final 4:10. Loucks was a perfect 8 of 8 at the stripe down the stretch.
"To have a chance to knock down free throws in a tight game when it really counted, it was good," Loucks said.
Florida State built a nine-point halftime lead behind a 7-of-12 effort from 3-point range. Five different Seminoles hit shots from behind the arc in the first half. Junior Michael Snaer netted a game-high 20 points and went 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.
FSU, which fell to Miami 78-62 last month, finished 9-of-16 from behind the arc.
"We executed very well, played very well and played to each other," Hamilton said.
That what teams that challenge for championships can do. Today's tilt against Duke could send a statement in that regard.
"I think we know we have a tremendous opportunity to do something great," Snaer said.
Bernard James tore a tendon in his left thumb during the second half of Friday's game. The finger was wrapped and he returned to the contest. James said he would have to keep it wrapped throughout the remainder of the season.