March 10, 2012
Next: March 11 vs. UNC
Philips Arena // Atlanta, Ga. // March 10
'NOLES PLAYER OF THE GAME
Junior// Guard // Moreno Valey, Calif.
Snaer led FSU in scoring, assists and blocks Saturday and had a key defensive play at the end that prevented an Austin Rivers 3-pointer.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
Duke had just two turnovers in the second half after committing 14 in the first period.
FSU held Duke to just five 3-pointers after allowing the Blue Devils to hit 13 a Feb. 23 loss.
There were 10 lead changes in a back-and-forth game Saturday.
In three games against the Blue Devils this year, Michael Snaer scored exactly 50 points.
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
ATLANTA, Ga. -- The last time the Atlantic Coast Conference held its annual men's basketball tournament in Atlanta, Florida State advanced to the first league championship-game in school history.
Three years later and in the same city, the No. 17 Seminoles are headed there again.
FSU defeated No. 6 Duke, 62-59 Saturday at Philips Arena in a game that featured 1- lead changes and eight tied scores. The third-seeded 'Noles (23-9) will now play No. 1 seed North Carolina Sunday at 1 p.m. with a conference title hanging in the balance.
Florida State has the opportunity to compete for its first ACC Championship because it withstood a patented Blue Devils (27-6) rally in the final seconds with an equal mixture of clutch offense and trustworthy defense.
After Austin Rivers' bucket cut the Seminoles' lead to 60-59, senior guard Luke Loucks buried a long two-point shot with 11.9 seconds left. Then on the opposite end, junior guard Michael Snaer's suffocating defense prevented Rivers from connecting on a game-tying 3-pointer.
"I was kind of reading [Duke's Josh Hairston]," Loucks said about the ball-screen play that led to his final shot. "I think Okaro [White] was going to come and screen again and I just kind of waved him off. [Hairston] gave me enough room to get off a decent shot. Fortunate for me and the team it went in."
After Rivers' miss, the loose ball rolled out of bounds as the possession arrow switched back to FSU and the Seminoles quickly called their final timeout.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Jeff Peterson was forced to heave the ball down the court where it was snagged by Seth Curry. As quickly as Duke's guard grabbed the ball he launched a near-half-court shot that would have tied the game at the buzzer before just barely rimming out.
"I thought Seth's shot was going in," Duke coach Mike Kryzyzewski admitted afterwards -- a sentiment that was shared by Curry and FSU's players in the locker room during post-game interviews.
Snaer led FSU in scoring with 16 points. He also had the most blocks (two), assists (six) and steals (two) of any Seminole on Saturday.
In three games against Duke this season -- two of which resulted in FSU wins -- Snaer scored 50 points and registered one still-talked about game-winner.
"He's just a damn good player," Kryzyzewski said. "He's an outstanding athlete; smart. I think he's the best competitor in our league and he wants to play defense."
Despite sustaining a torn ligament in his thumb Friday against Miami, Bernard James scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Loucks finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists and Okaro White added nine points and seven rebounds.
The Seminoles shot 42 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free-throw line while Duke was held to 37-percent shooting and a 25-percent clip from 3-point range while committing 16 turnovers.
FSU also out-rebounded Duke 34-33 and scored 34 points in the paint to the Blue Devils' 24. Florida State added 19 points off turnovers and seven on fast breaks.
"That's the kind of effort that we needed and that's the kind of effort our guys showed tonight," Snaer said about FSU's advantage in the "hustle" categories.
Florida State opened the second half with a 10-2 run that pushed its halftime advantage from 33-31 to 43-33. But Duke's own 12-7 run as the 'Noles strung together a couple of bad offensive possessions trimmed that lead to 49-47 with 7:45 left in the game.
Duke then captured its first lead of the second after Seth Curry sank two free throws with 5:03 left to give the Blue Devils a 54-53 lead. After a Loucks-to-James alley-oop on the other end, Rivers's and-one put Duke back on top before Snaer continued the back and forth with his first and only 3-pointer of the game.
Up 58-57 with 1:43 left to play, Ian Miller drew his fifth and final foul while trying to drive to the basket but FSU got a stop on the other end as Mason Plumlee drew his fourth foul going for an offensive rebound.
Plumlee was then called for his fifth foul while trying to draw with one minute left and Loucks hit both of his 1-and-1 free-throw attempts.
"We needed one stop and we just couldn't get that stop and they executed and we didn't stop," Kryzyzewski said. "It was a heck of a game."
FSU now turns its attention to No. 4 North Carolina, a team it walloped 90-57 in mid-January.
Despite that convincing victory and the two wins over Duke this season, there's still a lot for the Seminoles to prove.
"We are trying to change the culture at Florida State; get people to take us seriously," James said. "Look at us as basketball school [and] not just give the ACC to Duke and North Carolina every year. We definitely want to play them to prove that we belong at the top of the ACC."
Winning the first ACC Championship in school history would surely satisfy that goal.