Momentum in the ACC on FSU's side

For some reason, Florida State could not compete with the Ivy League this season. But in the ACC, the Seminoles are now serious contenders after taking down powerhouses North Carolina and Duke.

Who could have envisioned this?

All those low and sometimes embarrassing moments in December. That blowout loss to start ACC play at Clemson. The poor shooting and turnover-plagued offense.

It has become a distant memory for the Seminoles (13-6, 4-1 in ACC), who followed one of the greatest home wins in school history Jan. 14 against North Carolina with something even grander. They perfectly executed a final possession play -- a length-of-court rush that begin with 4.8 seconds left and ended with Michael Snaer's 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded -- to shock No. 4 Duke 76-73 on Jan. 21.

The victory ended the Blue Devils' 45-game home unbeaten string.

If not for Notre Dame beating unbeaten Syracuse on the same Saturday afternoon, the 'Noles created the biggest story of the nation in college basketball last weekend.

"I'm proud of our guys because this is a very difficult place to win," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton. "It was a big win for us. We have a lot of room for improvement, and we're kind of growing up on the job. It's a signature win on the road for us in a place where not very many people have won."

Especially the Seminoles. They have taken other talented teams into Duke's arena and been blown out. In this case, they trailed for most of the game but never let an eight-point deficit become 16 points. They hung around, stayed in contention and pounced with a shockingly perfect drive, pass and shoot to silence a raucous crowd.

In winning at Duke, the Seminoles now have a favorable schedule and a solid chance of continuing to stay tied atop the ACC standings, beginning with a road test at Wake Forest. They suddenly look like one of the top three teams in the ACC, as they were predicted to be in September.

"We feel that we are capable, but we're humble in knowing that we have tough times along the way," Hamilton said. "So we don't really have the mindset that we can enjoy anything right now because we've won four ACC games. We realize we've got a lot of work to do, and we're trying to earn a certain measure of respect that we lost earlier in the season. We've got to enjoy this for the moment, and we've got to get ready for the next game."

At issue is how FSU will now handle this resurgence in the national spotlight. They have a veteran-laden team, but that did not prevent a woeful start that left their fans thinking it was a brutally-disappointing season.

The past two weeks may have been the best period in FSU's recent basketball history. The 'Noles still have a chance to produce a special season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

After allowing Duke to secure 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, the Seminoles limited the Blue Devils to four in the second half. That closed a one-side rebounding edge into 33-30 for Duke at the end of the game. ...

FSU committed 12 turnovers against Duke, which followed a nine-turnover game in the win against Maryland. What a turnaround, after FSU was averaging 18 turnovers during the rest of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 50 -- The Seminoles put up 50 points against Duke in the second half, which might have been a team high for this program at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In addition, this was FSU's third consecutive game of scoring 75 or more points, which it reached once in the previous five games before the stretch.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just kind of saw an opportunity here and went ahead and seized it. After the jubilation and jumping around in the locker room, the whole speech was that we're not finished. We only have four ACC wins right now, and that's not going to get us into the [NCAA] tournament," -- Florida State G Luke Loucks on the aftermath of his team's big win at Duke.


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