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Even if the celebration came 1.7 seconds too soon, March Madness
officially arrived at Florida State.
Backed into a must-win game against the No. 1 team in the country, the
Seminoles stormed past Duke in the closing minutes for a 79-74 victory
and punched what should be their first ticket to the NCAA tournament
But the Tucker Center party took a bizarre twist with 1.7 seconds
remaining when FSU forward Al Thornton was fouled. Thinking the game
was over, hundreds of students stormed the floor. The Seminoles, who
were leading 77-72 at the time, were assessed a two-shot technical
"Let's just face it – this is uncharted waters for us," FSU coach
Leonard Hamilton said. "We're not accustomed to playing the No. 1 team
in the country on Senior Night in the last game of the year. Our crowd
was over-anxious, but to be honest even I thought the clock had run
out and the game was over."
After All-American guard J.J. Redick made two free throws to cut the
lead to 77-74, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sent all of his players to
the locker room except for five reserves. They stayed on the floor as
Thornton made his two free throws to close out the scoring.
"I pulled my team off the floor for the safety of the team,"
Krzyzewski said. "It's unfortunate that happened. When a crowd rushes
when there is still time on the clock, you have to be very careful. We
weren't going to win the ball game so why put those kids in harm's
way. I thought it was the right thing to do."
The storming of the court will certainly overshadow what was another
classic game between the two schools.
Thornton scored 26 points – keyed by a 15-of-16 effort from the free
throw line – and teammate Alexander Johnson had 22 points and 13
rebounds to counter another great night from Duke's Shelden Williams
(20 points, 16 rebounds) and Redick (30 points).
Duke (27-2, 14-1) had two possessions in the final two minutes to tie
the game, but Redick was held without a field goal attempt by FSU
senior Andrew Wilson.
The Seminoles (18-8, 8-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference)
out-rebounded the Blue Devils 42-39. More importantly, they were
rewarded for their gameplan of attacking the basket and outshot Duke
at the free throw line. The Seminoles were 32-of-40 from the line
compared to Duke's 10-of-17.
In the team's first meeting, the Blue Devils attempted 43 free throws
to FSU's 11.
But no one in an FSU uniform cared much how the game was won on
Wednesday night. Instead, the players were just happy to bask in what
should be their first NCAA tournament appearance under Hamilton.
"I couldn't have written this any better," FSU's Wilson said. "This is such an important win for our team and, really, for our program. To go out like this is just incredible."