College Basketball: Florida State 68, Duke 67
Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 4, 2007
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM — Florida State’s players celebrated their game-sealing defensive stop by cutting loose, whooping it up in front of those famously rowdy Cameron Crazies.
After 15 straight losses on Duke’s fabled home floor, the Seminoles finally had a reason to party.
Al Thornton scored 21 points and Florida State stopped Duke cold in the final minute to seal a 68-67 victory over the eighth-ranked Blue Devils on Sunday.
And after the Seminoles’ first victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the players danced and celebrated in front of Duke’s notoriously noisy student section.
“That was just a little excitement. We went over there and showed them a little love,” Thornton said. “I think we overdid it, but we apologize, though, that we did all that.”
Toney Douglas added 15 points and Uche Echefu had 12 for the Seminoles (17-6, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who overcame a 17-point deficit to win their third straight and avenge a tough loss here last year.
“Duke has set a benchmark, and they set the bar awful high,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “All the teams, especially the ones that are trying to become programs of significance, Duke has set a standard that most of us are being judged by.
“So to get a win here against a very good Duke team that’s nationally ranked does a lot for your players’ confidence and the morale of your program. But in order for this to be meaningful, we need to continue winning games.”
Duke had two late chances after David McClure rebounded Douglas’ miss with about 30 seconds left. The Blue Devils brought it downcourt and called timeout with 7.7 seconds left to set up their final play. DeMarcus Nelson inbounded the ball to Greg Paulus, and he missed a layup.
“We had to make them make tough shots, even though they had some point-blank looks they kind of missed,” Thornton said. “Overall, we had to make them make some tough shots.”
A jump ball was called on the rebound, and the possession arrow pointed toward Duke. Josh McRoberts took the inbounds pass in the lane with about 2 seconds left, and his floater rimmed out. Nelson’s putback attempt bounced off the rim as time expired.
“Josh is usually the main read on that, and I trust Josh with the game on the line,” Paulus said.
Paulus finished with a career-high 23 points for Duke (18-5, 5-4), which has lost two straight in the final seconds and now must beat rival North Carolina on Wednesday to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 1999 — when the Blue Devils lost their last game of the 1998-99 season and dropped their first two in 1999-00.
“We’ve lost a couple in a row, and no matter who it is, we’re going to be ready to play,” Paulus said.
Nelson scored 14 points and McRoberts added 12 for Duke, which held Florida State scoreless over the final 3:18 but couldn’t hit the big shot in the final moments.
The Seminoles opened up a six-point lead with about 3 minutes remaining when Ryan Reid’s layup made it 68-62 before Duke rallied.
Nelson hit a jumper, and Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton was whistled for a technical foul. Jon Scheyer made both free throws to pull Duke within one point with 2:31 left, but the Blue Devils got no closer.
It was delicious revenge for Florida State, which lost by one point in overtime in their last visit here, a bitter loss marked by critical technical foul mistakenly assessed to the Seminoles’ Alexander Johnson. Still, in that game they led by two in the extra session before fading under the sharp shooting of J.J. Redick and physical presence of Shelden Williams.
The way the Blue Devils shot early, it appeared the Seminoles were headed for their 16th consecutive loss here. Duke burst out to a 27-10 lead midway through the first half behind 12 points from Paulus.
“Duke was having their way with us,” Hamilton said.
But the Seminoles countered with a 23-8 run and held the Blue Devils to one field goal in 71/2 minutes and closed to 35-33 on Echefu’s 3-pointer from the key with 1:23 before halftime. They took their first lead on Thornton’s layup 65 seconds into the second half.
“When two good teams play, if one team spurts a little bit, usually the other team will spurt back,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We played better than them for eight minutes, and then they played better than us for eight minutes.”
NOTE: At halftime Duke retired the No. 4 jersey worn by Redick, the leading scorer in school and ACC history.