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Mar 25, 1997

Collins Lifts 'Noles into NIT Championship Game

James Collins scored 29 points and his three-pointer from the left wing 53 seconds into overtime gave Florida State the lead for good as it rallied past Connecticut, 71-65, in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament in New York.

Kerry Thompson added four of his 20 points in overtime for the Seminoles (20-11), who will play Michigan in Thursday's championship. Florida State erased a five-point deficit in the final minute of regulation and Thompson forced overtime when he hit a three-pointer from NBA range with 3.9 seconds left.

"This was a warrior-type game," said Florida State coach Pat Kennedy. "These kids were just exhausted. In the first half, they were emotionally involved and I had a sense the kids became tired down the stretch. At the end of the game, we did a good job with our man-to-man defense, and our defenders on the wing and the point guard position and did a great job."

Richard Hamilton scored 26 points and Rashamel Jones added 12 for Connecticut (17-15), which was trying for its second NIT championship. The Huskies, who will play Arkansas for third place Thursday, also won the NIT in 1988.

After a 15-footer by Hamilton gave Connecticut its only lead of overtime 22 seconds into the period, Collins came off a screen and hit a three-pointer to make it 62-61. Hamilton missed a shot and Randell Jackson sank an eight-foot hook shot to push the lead to three.

Jones turned the ball over and Corey Louis hit two free throws to cap a 7-0 run and give Florida State a 66-61 lead with 2:16 left. Ricky Moore answered with a 10-footer to pull the Huskies within three at the 1:44 mark, but Collins hit a free throw and Thompson added two more to put the Seminoles ahead 69-63 with 49 seconds left.

"The clock was ringing down and all year we have been playing James (Collins)," said Thompson. "They were defending him and if I couldn't get him the ball, I'd rather shoot it than put it in someone else's hands. Once I shot it, I felt it was going in."

Connecticut came no closer than five points down the stretch.

The Huskies took a 56-53 lead when Hamilton made a three-pointer from the left wing with 2:40 to go. Thompson made a free throw with 2:03 left. Jones drilled a three-pointer from the left side to give the Huskies a 59-54 lead with a minute remaining, but Jackson hit two free throws with 47 seconds left.

After Jones missed another three-pointer from almost the same spot with 15 seconds left, Thompson dribbled to the top of the key before letting fly with a 22-footer to tie the game and force the extra session.

Florida State shot only 34 percent (24-of-67) from the field, but made 12-of-25 three-point shots. Collins hit 8-of-12 from long range.

"For us so far, this has been a tournament of big shots," added Kennedy. "Kerry Thompson hit some tough shots tonight. We were running a lot of pick-and-rolls, and they stayed with the pick-and-roll on the last shot and that was the big shot."

The Huskies did not shoot much better, connecting on 25-of-70 shots (36 percent). Connecticut hit 7-of-19 three-point shots but attempted only nine free throws, making eight.

"The last 30 minutes before overtime, I thought we outplayed Florida State," said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. "They're a quality team, but we didn't take advantage of a five-point lead. Once you get into overtime, anything can happen. We didn't lose because we are young, we lost to a better team down the stretch. I thought we were the best team, but we pushed it away a little bit."

FLORIDA ST (71)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Greer           39  2-11   0-2   3-6  4  1    5
Jackson         40  2-11   4-4  5-12  0  3    8
Luchman         12   0-3   0-2   1-3  0  1    0
Collins         43 10-16   1-4   4-9  1  3   29
K Thompson      44  6-14   5-8   3-6  9  3   20
Louis           38  3-10   3-6   5-9  0  2    9
Hale             8   0-1   0-0   0-1  0  0    0
Deas             1   0-1   0-0   0-1  1  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         225 23-67 13-26 21-47 15 13   71
_______________________________________________
Percentages: FG-.343, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals:
12-25, .480 (Greer 1-5, Jackson 0-1, Collins
8-12, K Thompson 3-5, Hale 0-1, Deas 0-1). Team
rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 7 (Louis 4, Jackson,
K Thompson, Luchman). Turnovers: 11 (Jackson 4, K
Thompson 4, Collins, Greer, Hale). Steals: 8
(Collins 3, K Thompson 3, Louis, Luchman).
CONNECTICUT (65)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Freeman         34   2-5   2-2  7-11  1  1    6
Jones           42  5-14   0-0   0-6  3  3   12
Voskuhl         19   1-4   3-4   2-3  0  5    5
Hamilton        36 11-26   0-0   1-3  1  4   26
Moore           41  3-14   3-3   3-6  7  1   10
Klaiber         22   1-1   0-0   2-4  0  5    2
Carson           6   0-1   0-0   0-1  0  0    0
Funches         12   1-1   0-0   1-3  0  0    2
Hardnett        11   1-3   0-0   1-1  1  3    2
Inyatkin         1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Leblanc          1   0-1   0-0   1-1  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         225 25-70   8-9 18-39 13 22   65
_______________________________________________
Percentages: FG-.357, FT-.889. 3-Point Goals:
7-19, .368 (Jones 2-6, Hamilton 4-8, Moore 1-3,
Carson 0-1, Hardnett 0-1). Team rebounds: 6.
Blocked shots: 7 (Voskuhl 4, Freeman, Hamilton,
Funches). Turnovers: 15 (Hamilton 4, Moore 4,
Carson 2, Jones 2, Klaiber 2, Hardnett). Steals:
3 (Hamilton 2, Klaiber).
_______________________________________
Florida St         33   26   12  -   71
Connecticut        32   27    6  -   65
_______________________________________
Technical fouls: Connecticut 1 (Head Coach).
Officials: Michael Sanzere, Tom Clark, Glenn
Mayborg.

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