Thornton tames the Tigers

Al Thornton's game-winning free throw propels the Seminoles past Clemson 67-66 and into the second round of the ACC Tournament.

Al Thornton led all players with a game-high 25 points but it was his last one that made the most difference in Florida State's victory over Clemson in the opening round of the ACC tournament Thursday.

With the score knotted at 66 points apiece, the First Team All-ACC forward drew a foul on a triple team with 1.5 seconds left.

After missing the first of two free throws, Thornton calmly connected on the second one to send the Seminoles into a second round matchup with No. 1 seed North Carolina Friday.

"I was kind of nervous there. I have never been in that type (of) situation before," Thornton said. "The pressure was on and I was able to shoot the second free throw very relaxed and shot it with confidence."

In a game that see-sawed back and forth, FSU (20-11, 7-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) seemed to be on the verge of letting the game slip away late in the contest.

Trailing 66-61 with just over three minutes to play, point guard Toney Douglas, playing in just his second game after missing nearly the entire month of February with a broken hand, hit a 3-pointer that seemingly rejuvenated the Seminole players and the large number of FSU fans inside the St. Pete Times Forum.

Thornton followed up Douglas' clutch basket with two blocks on defense and an emphatic dunk over two Tigers with a minute and a half left in the game.

"We got some big stops there towards the end," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Al knocked down the free throw and there lies a typical ACC game. It seems every game that you watch of late has been these types of games. We are very fortunate to come out on the winning end this time."

For the game, FSU shot 53.6 percent from the floor compared to 59.3 percent by the Tigers (21-10, 7-9 ACC).

Junior guard Jason Rich aided in the FSU victory with 12 points. Douglas and Isaiah Swann each finished with eight points while Thornton registered a double-double as he pulled down 11 rebounds.

The Seminoles took a 38-36 lead into the halftime break thanks to a 3-pointer by Thornton in the half's final seconds.

Florida State returns to action Friday at noon to face the Tar Heels, who earned a bye in the first round after finishing the regular season atop the ACC standings.

"I really think it's going to be a sell out crowd," Thornton said. "It's great that the tournament is here in Tampa. We are going to have Florida State fans coming out and we are going to try to givee them something to cheer about."


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