While the upstart FSU men's basketball team isn't yet in a position to say that their 70-66 upset victory over the Gators Sunday night means they are the better of two teams (UF is the defending national champion, by the way), it certainly says something about the player arguably responsible for the Tribe's victory.
Matching up with one of the college game's brightest stars, senior forward Al Thornton was able to keep Gator big man Joakim Noah in check defensively all night and offensively, well, that's a whole other story.
The Georgia native's offensive arsenal of both inside and outside shots and dizzying array of aggressive moves to get to the basket proved too much to handle for Noah and the Gator defense.
Thornton finished the game with 28 points.
"He's one of the best in Florida State history. He is clutch," junior guard Jason Rich said.
"I am a fan. I am a big fan. I love to see him just go out there and do him, man," added junior guard Isaiah Swann, who had a season-high 11 points against UF. "He goes all out. Somebody who does that every possession, you just gotta let them do them. It's just, ‘Here, here you go. It's your time. Do what you gotta do.'
"We just put the ball in his hands and expect him make the right plays. He knows what to do."
Making those right plays also happen to come at the right time against the Gators
Thornton hit a critical jumpshot with just under 1:15 remaining to give the Seminoles a 58-54 when UF had made a quick run. He then promptly hit those two important free throws with four seconds left to play.
His charity stripe prowess was made even more special by the fact that he had just outhustled everyone else on the court to get a loose ball blocked by FSU sophomore guard Toney Douglas.
The 6-foot-8 wing man, who many scouts have said could potentially be a lottery pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, scored 18 of his 28 points in the second half and 10 of his team's final 12.
"In the second half, he played with a lot of determination and he obviously made a lot of big plays," FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Thornton's brilliant play and the fact that FSU pulled off the victory have a very strong correlation with one another.
In two disheartening road losses to ranked opponents, Thornton combine for just 26 points in those two games. He matched that total in one contest Sunday.
"We went on the road and we didn't play well. We didn't play as a team," Thornton said. "I know to everybody watching we seemed like a bunch of selfish individuals out there on the court. We watched film and we learned from that."
Thornton's play quiets Noah, UF
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