The Seminoles ran a clear out for guard Toney Douglas, who beat Javier Gonzalez off the dribble and streaked towards the basket. But unlike last time, when Douglas went in uncontested for a lay-up, J.J. Hickson stepped up to greet the guard. Douglas stopped and fired an awkward shot that careened off the front of the rim and into Hickson's hands.
The freshman drew a foul on the way down and calmly sank both free throws with nine seconds remaining on the clock. The Seminoles tried to go down low again in an effort to tie the game, but Hickson rejected Douglas' lay-up attempt to effectively end the game. Gonzalez hit one more free throw and a final heave came up short for Florida State as the Pack walked out of the Donald Tucker Center with a much-needed 69-66 win on Saturday afternoon.
The last few seconds were only possible because of a huge 3-pointer by Fells with the Pack (13-6, 2-3 ACC) down three to the Seminoles (13-8, 2-4) and just 40 seconds left in the game. Fells stroked a long 3-point shot from the wing that looked way off the mark but the ball banked home to tie the score at 66 all and set up Hickson's heroics.
The win pulls the Pack back into a clump of teams at 2-3 in the ACC standings. The Pack is one of six teams with two wins in the conference, and all those teams are trailing the top four of Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and Boston College.
Three Wolfpack players finished in double digits, led by Courtney Fells with 16 points. Gavin Grant added 14 points and Hickson added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Douglas led all scorers with 17 points for the Seminoles. The Pack shot 45 percent from the field and limited the Seminoles to just 35 percent but gave the Noles plenty of chances by allowing them to pull down 14 offensive boards.
The Pack jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead to start the game, but the Noles wasted no time in taking control of the half. Uche Echefu hit two 3-pointers to put Florida State out in front, and the Seminoles used the 3-point line to their advantage all half. The Noles went 6-for-14 from behind the arc in the half, and at one point hit four straight 3-pointers as the team took a double-digit lead.
But Gavin Grant and his Wolfpack teammates responded, as the senior drained a 3-point basket then added two buckets in transition to jump start one of the Pack's best stretches of basketball this season. Over the final 5:08 of the first half, the Pack went on a 17-0 run that cut a 12-point deficit into a five-point advantage to take a 36-31 lead into the half.
State hung onto that lead into the second half until a Jason Rich dunk put the Noles back ahead by a 43-42 score. The two teams exchanged leads for the next few minutes, as neither team could get much going on offense and struggled with turnovers. As the game tightened up, so did the officiating with both teams going to the line repeatedly down the stretch. The Noles also struggled with foul problems to a few starters, with Jason Rich leaving the game with more than six minutes left.