ACC Basketball: Florida State 72, N.C. State 62
By Aaron Beard
RALEIGH ó Derwin Kitchen helped Florida State close the regular season with a solid finish despite playing without its top scorer and rebounder for the past month.
Now the Seminoles are heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with a high seed and hopes that Chris Singleton could be close to returning from a broken right foot.
Kitchen had 17 points and matched a career high with 13 rebounds to help Florida State beat North Carolina State 72-62 on Sunday night in the final game of the ACC schedule.
Bernard James added 14 points for the Seminoles (21-9, 11-5 ACC), who have won three of five with Singleton out. It marked only the third time in program history that Florida State has won 11 ACC games in a season and the first since winning 12 in 1993.
ěItís not any time to start taking any bows,î FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. ěWe feel like this particular team has a lot more room for improvement. Weíre still basically an inexperienced team for the most part … Iím hoping theyíll keep working and weíll continue to keep improving.î
The Seminoles were already locked into the No. 3 seed for this weekís tournament in Greensboro, so there wasnít a lot at stake for them in this game. Florida State led for the first 30 minutes, scoring the first seven points and leading by 13 in the first half before taking a 34-25 halftime lead.
Then, after the Wolfpack (15-15, 5-11) made a push to take a one-point lead with about 8 minutes left, Kitchen scored a pair of baskets to put the Seminoles ahead for good.
ěI feel like we have done pretty good without our best player,î Kitchen said. ě(If Singleton returns) I hope he can bring what he (brought) all year long. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off. If not, weíre not focusing on that too much. Weíre focusing on what we have right now.î
Hamilton said he didnít know if Singleton would be ready for the ACC tournament, though he said the 6-foot-9 junior hasnít had any setbacks while doing some noncontact work since he was hurt on Feb. 12 against Virginia. He said Singleton wouldnít return unless heís ěcompletely healed.î
ěWeíre being extremely careful,î Hamilton said, ěbut it looks like itís getting a lot closer than I thought it would be at this stage.î
As for N.C. State, the question was whether this was the final home game for fifth-year Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe. Picked to finish fourth in the ACC, N.C. State closed with four losses in five games to fall to the No. 10 seed in Greensboro.
Lowe entered with an 86-76 overall record while going just 25-54 in ACC play. Worse, he hasnít made the NCAA tournament after inheriting a program coming off five straight NCAA trips. There have been a handful of exciting moments, from an upset of highly ranked rival North Carolina and a surprise run to the ACC tournament championship in his first season to an upset of eventual national champion Duke last year.
Yet those moments proved fleeting. And as fans saw their preseason optimism fade into that all-too-familiar sinking feeling as this season wore on, there were entire sections of empty red seats in the upper end zones of the RBC Center while the vibe in the building dulled from excitement to resignation.
Lowe said he didnít feel drained by uncertainty about his future.
ěNo, because the focus is not me,î he said. ěMy focus is my kids. Thatís what I have to do. If I get drained and Iím worn down, then how can I expect them to be ready? So itís just like I tell each of our players: ëItís not about you. Itís about your teammate.í Well, thatís the same thing for me.î
N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow has said that she wouldnít make any decisions on Loweís future until after the season is complete.
ěThatís all politics,î sophomore Scott Wood said of Loweís future. ěIf it was up to me, Iíd bring him back. I love Coach Lowe.î
Freshman C.J. Leslie scored 12 points for the Wolfpack, who led 55-54 before Kitchen recovered a loose ball in the lane and scored a layup. Then Kitchen drove past two defenders for layup and followed a jumper from Michael Snaer by hitting his own shot over Ryan Harrow to push the lead to 62-56 with 4:50 left.
N.C. State got no closer than four again.
The Associated Press